On bad nights I make three brown-bag lunches.
At the bottom of each bag rests a saltine I crushed in my hand.

I sing an ear worm out into the open.
I fear it laid eggs while in my head.

I feel funny addressing the dead out loud.
An odd sharing from an unmeasurable distance.

My body feels as if it must support itself
three millimeters above the ground.

My ear hears the earth sing back to me
a new variation of celestial motion.

It is odd how the weight of living
causes the sensation of the body rising from the ground.

In the morning I will choose a brown bag to take to work.
I always choose the one on the left side of the refrigerator.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Who Cares for the Poodle

The day passes.
Paul and Lori host a wake.

Ambiguity brings its uninvited brother.
Time appeared a little disheveled.

No gifts for the bereaved.
Scorn pokes its head in.

Everyone jostles elbows.
Hands create shadow art.

The evening lags interminably.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Water Laps the Boat

I am guilty of minor transgressions more than I admit.
The ringing in my ears is a subconscious alert.

The penny shortage is Covid’s fault.
An extra two million copper coins placed on people’s eyes.

The fly I killed today was one of god’s creatures.
I mass murdered ants that got in the house.

Our dog crossed over the river and rests in the shade of trees.
His ID tag fell off at the river’s edge.

Climb with me to the mountain top
to find new tablets for an updated covenant.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


This reddening of cheeks.
We are overly blessed with miracles like rose-hip tea.

Our miracles never raise the dead.
Or reconstitutes dust and ash.

We weed sins from our lives.
It is sweaty work that thankfully fails.

This annual swelling of earth.
Our attempts to graft redemption to apple trees.

We are sloppy drunk on hard cider.
Forget-me-nots blanket the cemetery.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bad Medicine

We made America
with a blind madness
that sowed fields
with death.

After the cold steel
of a long winter
new grasses soon hid
last year’s bones.

Some leaders
work to hide our history
out of shame, discomfort
and political advantage.

They are the same people
who refuse to tell
their doctors
their whole health history.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sand Creek

Science has now proved
grass remembers.

Raw is the grief it carries

Its roots grow around
spent bullets.

Soft misshapen lead
whitened with age.

But the grass sings
of courage.

Not one lyric
mentions the blue brutes.

Lie down where
someone’s ancestor fell.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Trust Fall

The image we are painted
shows that the soul flys upward
the moment the body falls.

Why does the soul
not follow the tongue full of prayers
as it hits the earth?

I believe it is because
shadows remain with the dead
of every massacre.

The shadow is so faithful
it goes with the body
into the long grave.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Joshua Gave Up Despair for Lent

Paul sits alone in the impossible dark.
To hold him the dark takes human shape.
It is warm and wet with tears.

He thinks about Joshua his long time friend.
Or not friend. How can you be a friend
if you never show-and-tell your scars?

Acquaintance? Neither now.
He did not reach out before the gunshot.
A calamity of percentages.

A leaving with no possibility of return.
The floating away of a ghostly lingering.
The bullet’s exit shattered a leaded glass window.

The dark squeezes Paul.
Sends a tingle through his nervous system.
He shutters his eyes to see the little lights.

Joshua takes form and digs his own grave.
He lies down and pulls a maple sapling to his lap
He asks for dirt.

The universe has such tangled connections.
Paul will see that Joshua’s ashes go under a sapling.
The darkness eases its grip.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Confession to a Headstone

You did not hesitate
when death arrived dressed to the nines
with roses and champagne.

You lived a celebrated life
and were the talk of the town
with a half page obituary.

Death disassembled you
and supplied your water molecules
and minerals for others.

If only it was a Marvel movie
where all the funeral attendees
saw the soft wind take up your dust.

I ordered another cocktail
to reach the drunken point
where I imagined such transpired.

I heard the chamber music.
Death and God waltzed.
It was impossible to tell one from the other.

I hesitated to tap a shoulder
and take my place
on the dance floor.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Deterrent Deterrent

Paul suggests aloud
to no one in particular
society charge suicides
with murder
for killing themselves
and place them on trial
in absentia.

With such a definition
he counts six murderers
he associated with
over the past decade
and wonders
if he should be arrested
as an accessory.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney