Punctuality Freak

Paul searched out his last breath.
It waited for him at a bar
twenty-two years and seven days
into the future.

His last breath knew it would take place
at a local hospital and not a bar
but the waiting period bored it
so it drank.

Paul thought to himself
that his last breath was well on its way
to becoming a lush, a drunk
and might well miss it cue and not be ready.

He tried to convince his last breath
to join AA and dry up
with the help of a sponsor
and new friends to buoy its spirits.

Paul’s last breath told him not to worry.
That it would sober up
when the bell sounded for Paul’s
last lap.

His last breath warned him
that it did not do dramatic last words
like Rosebud or Mother
but might utter a line

from a Shakespearean comedy
or something creepy
like an obscure IRS rule
about diminishing returns.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


My heartsong changes
as my body ages
and certain realities
force themselves
upon my bones
especially in winter.

Some days
I walk through
past refrains
in memory
on the mountains
I topped
and the oceans
whose waves
tumbled me.

never resides
in my mouth
on my tongue
as my powerful voice
disperses to a whisper
before the long sleep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


No matter
how dark
and close
to black
a person
in life
their body
in death
in the ground
the grasses
above them
and the
nearby trees
who tangle
their roots
around them
so they
are hugged.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


The landscape turned red.
Reign of bullets.
Rain of frogs.

Second Amendment
right to die
second hour math class.

Luminous sorrow
lights the wake
the descent into ground.

Sum of all fears
is greater than the sum
of all guns sold.

And the bullet assembly line
fails to keep pace with demand.

People with nothing better to do
than inventory stacks
of basement ammo boxes.

Expended brass casings
never hit the ground
as gently as rain.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

I Write This At Our Old Table

Your appearance
in ghostly form
explains your disappearance
to a small degree.

I preferred it
when you lived and breathed
but accept seeing you
at your old haunts.

In some of those places
your voice hides in corners
and I hear them
as a whisper even when in song.

You ask about your life.
I am reluctant to explain it
since I believe
you should be letting go

for release into the next world
and what it holds
but it could be you have amends
to make after death’s epiphanies.

Not amends but forgiveness.
Not them forgiving you.
But you forgiving them
in their presence and to their faces.

This is so bitterness and pain
fail to lock you to these familiar places
even though I remember them
as places of laughter.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The pre-dawn dark
enclosed the house.
The first light I turned on
intruded and deepened
the surrounding darkness.
There was not enough moon
for illumination
and I did not think
to turn on the blue flame first
then fill the kettle.

Out the window
the absence of stars
marked the mountains line.
There. That bend.
That indentation
which will be white soon
is where you are.
In the litter of leaves
and pine needles
that now cover
our thoughts of you
where we spread
your ashes.

And not where you are.
You believed you rejoined the whole.
God is the word we use
to define the whole.
Our solar system equivalent
to a single atom
of something infinitely larger.
Atoms trading places.
Always in motion.
Your water, by fire, evaporated
into the air then clouds.
Your ash when the west wind kicks up
moves your carbon toward Kansas.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

End Times

In fairness
all fishermen
when they die
should be cast
to the sea
so the fishes
may feast
to close
the circle.

Thus thinking
need to rest
under the sod
so they are consumed
by the grasses
that feed
the cows.

And poets
should go up
in flames
after so many
inflammatory verses.
The wind
can taste their salt.
Their water
will steam
and join
the clouds.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Who will captain the skiff
and helm the passage over the rift
when Charon’s eyes wear copper coins?

Tied to the mast, four ordinal carolers
sing for their supper
and sound the depths of the ether.

What will the god’s say
when I deliver the first canine cargo
to the far shore?

And what about the parts?
Folks so broken by their lives
their souls splintered?

What of terrorists
promised heaven and a count of virgins
not held in angelic warehouses?

What will the god’s say
when I deliver a forest of fallen leaves
and ruptured hollyhock petals?

I learn deliveries go both ways.
The hold is never empty.
The newly born disembark.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Unable to carve
in stone
Paul accepts
the penetration
of the tattoo artist’s
sharp pens.

Norse Runes
in a band
up and around
the arm shoulder
and back
as if flesh
was stone.

A story.

Her story
mirrored in an odd mix
of ancient
modern words.

Once he wore
a talisman.
Keltic loops
woven serpentine
that disguised
a pentacle
and heart—
Love is Magic.

It lay with its twin
in her grave.
Gold for future
robbers and thieves
to excavate.

Also on him
Santa Muerte.
Mythology mix.
Modern adaptation.
Neo creationism
for what the spirit

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Paul Creates Two Stacks of Documents

The one on the right is standard letter sized
eight & a half by eleven sheets
all white with black inkjet print
and stacks neatly as if ready
for a box.

The one on the left is random sizes
shapes colors from little cards
with cute mice eating seeds on them
to a drawing of a map
that emulates the world
as seen by Amerigo Vespucci
but in bright colored pencil
instead of faded ink.

The right stack could be poems
based on the irregular
amount of words and letters
and the spacing on them.
Eight hundred and twenty three sheets
all with a date from the calendar year

The threat is the paper shredder
on a short table in between
the two stacks.

The threat is the last orders
(will and testament)
that spells out
in plain English
to destroy a life’s work.

These two stacks are just the beginning.
One studio closet is full
of manuscript boxes
and several portfolio cases.
And that does not count the walls
hung with framed work
or poems push-pinned onto plaster.

Paul opens a whiskey bottle
and pours himself a drink.
He swishes it about his mouth like Listerine.
Then swallows.

The power button on the shredder
glows blue after he presses it.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney