Dented Carbon Fiber

Paul pinned a paper number
to the black asphalt.

He changed it every day
to reflect auto fatalities.

Of animals that is.
Especially flying insects.

He pinned it like he was angry.
He was angry.

These were numbers
he never invited into his head

or discussed over a beer
with Rudy.

Today’s number stretched across
one-and-a-quarter lanes.

Within three cars zooming over it
it was shreds, litter, ink

ready to bleed on the prickly pear
in the next desert rain.

Each night as dawn approached
a distant yelling broke Paul’s sleep.

A yelling inside his head
that did not sound like his deceased father.

Paul decided to use initiative
and print extra blank spaces left and right

so he might stretch the number out
like knifeless tape at the finish line.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Tortures Paul

He dreams of his daughter
snatched from his hands
by an American eagle,
magicked away by pixies,
torn away by wolves,
held for ransom by kidnappers,
floated out the window on a dark melody
by mysterious musical notes,
swallowed whole by a snake,
lifted skyward by the thumb
and index finger of God.

He wakes shuddering.
His hands feel so empty
they might as well not exist.
Touch cannot be trusted
ever again.

He can not shake this feeling
that he was pulled
far outside himself,
futilely trying to stop
the tragedy, holding on
until the predatory
Angel of Death
pried his fingers
away from dear life.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Unconsciously

Every moment of the day
I have the opportunity
of dying.

I know this from all manner of accidents
that have taken friends away
in the prime of their lives.

And so it is when a tree snake
swallows an egg whole
from a bird nest.

How do we find the courage
to drive the hectic traffic
at rush hour?

How do we find the pluck
to walk the rocky edge
of Sandia Crest?

Certainly not by calculating the odds
on spreadsheets
with arcane algebraic formulas.

Mostly by not thinking about it,
I think—just like I don’t think
about loving you. I just do.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

The Dead Extending Outward

Paul and Dora
ended up tallying
all the people
lost to the pandemic
and trying to
remember each
and every face.

As an exercise
they attempted
to list them
alphabetically
and then by height
so that
different indexing
might catch a few
they missed
before.

Dora decided
on a community
Christmas project
where one farolito
would be placed
for each passed soul
and no dickering
over heart complications
or diabetes
disqualifying someone
from the count.

Paul suggested
they use a
black Sharpie
to write one name
per brown bag
in the manner
of the Vietnam Memorial
on the National Mall,
but in order
by date of death.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Visitation

Paul mistook his voice
for a headstone hallucination
in the whisky shot aftermath
downed in salute.

There the voice was again,
with trillions upon trillions of miles
of heaven travel grime
spattered upon it.

It dripped with dark matter.
With Higgs bosons.
With a neutrino halo
caught in the gravity of Paul’s grief.

His voice bruised Paul’s ears.
Might as well have been a meteorite
slamming into Albuquerque,
cratering the day’s expectations.

The voice momentarily
fossilized Paul’s bones and breath
and tears fell from his eyes deepening
the scuffed bootblack on his shoes.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

We Go Forward

I float by your side
like a balloon
you still hold onto
from childhood.

Your blue eyes
reflect on my face
turning me blue—
Lake Crescent blue.

I hover close
as you wash coffee cups,
sweep the floor
and make the bed.

Today, you have
less patience
for the mud
tracked across the floor.

Each clod reminds you
of the grave
and the first shovel full
tossed in ceremony.

You tie me
to the brass door nob
and lose yourself
rereading The Hobbit.

Before bed you cry
because you require a pill
for some semblance of sleep
next to my absence.

The chemical chain
unties me from the door nob.
After you toss the covers
I float into your dreams.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Crevasse

Paul clings
to that one photograph
of his daughter
in her mother’s arms
from that first day
and when he looks
at the faded colors
he can still hear
his daughter yawn
her one big intake
of breath
before that
heavy blue
emerged under
her skin
and he fell
into a crevasse
that opened
in the hospital
floor while
the code sounds
became too distant
to comprehend.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hoist

The dead
who did not tell
every story
they meant to tell
drift about
murmuring
sounding like
the wind
passing
through leaves.
They hope
the thin strands
of their stories
enter ears.

Paul sits
under a tree
tilting his head
at different
angles until
he catches
the threads
of several stories
that he believes
work like tethers
and will lift him
into heaven
come the day
he dies.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sunglasses

Over my regular glasses
I wear my dad’s sunglasses
that I took from his crumpled dashboard.
I drive out to the rural intersection
where he thought the stop
was four-way but was two
and pulled out to cross
two lanes of traffic.

As I expected the county sheriffs
did not sweep up all the small
broken bits of his car
letting traffic’s tires
push them toward the shoulder.
I search the debris seeking
a good luck keepsake that hung
from his rearview mirror.

Wearing his sunglasses
I see back in time
to his error in perception
and glimpse the truck barreling
around the curve with bad timing
or perfect timing, if you believe
in predestination.

From the corner gas station,
I purchase a cherry popsicle
and break it in two
to share it with my dad.
Still wearing his sunglasses
I see him slide in next to me
take the offered popsicle
and we share it like when I was young.

I never found the keepsake
among the bits of debris.
I left the sunglasses
by the side of the road
adjacent to a popsicle stick
with a trail of cheery red liquid
slowly navigating the asphalt
into the intersection.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Unfiltered

May your body
fit through the eye of a needle.

A jetliner is a strange tomb.
Coral will cover it up eventually.

In an air-pocket a tube of lipstick
and three tiny Seagrams bottles bob and float.

Cigarettes remain in your purse
never to be smoked.

May the ocean currents
empty your pockets of spare change and keys.

Air-travel anxiety blockers gave you
an otherworldly calm.

A bubble escapes your mouth
to slide up your cheek.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney