House And Home

My body battered by my mind
trembles in place.

My blood hollows itself
blueing under oxygen debt.

Knights joust upon my tongue.
A soggy pink field torn to pieces by mad charges.

Love is a word I do not speak to myself.
It is an abstract others speak of solidly.

It has something to do with the difference
of the words House and Home.

My body houses what God’s mouth
breathed into me.

But this flesh does not feel like home
for all my consumed communion wafers.

In this state I tell myself
this night I feel the holy dark about me

and the floor’s broken glass is fear
not a bottle dropped

after liquid numbness fails
to add color back to old photos.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Loneliness

I do not know what I have done
and I do not suspect God will answer me
whether I am on my knees at the alter
or on a walk through the woods.

And what is worse is that each morning
I wake and look into the mirror
only to wonder whose eyes those are
that look back at me with such reproach.

There is a promise I have threatened to make
which, with twisted words, might mean
I will love my self, but, on some days
it is more a bargain just to see the sunset

and lay my head down again upon the pillow
in the slight knowledge that tomorrow might be better,
might be the day when my soul walks inside of me—
not two steps behind and one to the right.

Down at the river where the rusted railroad bridge
supports the many nests of swallows
I gamble with the dusk, with bread that draws
the ducks over to speak for me

to the God who must reside in the distorted sky
as it is reflected in the water below the bridge,
below the darting swallows, as a McDonalds’ cup
fails to snag on any of the river’s branches or rocks.

But no one speaks, except for that voice within my head,
the voice that says, You are ugly. You incompetent boob.
You … The list goes on and reciting it darkens the moon
as it rises above the trees, as the sun filters orange and red.

There is the offer of the bridge, of the bloated fish that float by,
of the river’s merciless current that lifts the dead and discarded
and carries them toward the sea—but the river with its flow
will not fill the emptiness, nor carry me back to God’s loving arms.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hundred Hues

The world reassembled itself.
It had not really fallen apart.
Bethany’s perception of it fractured
in the glint of the storage unit’s
razor wire.

Only a guest in the hidden chapel,
the light through the stained glass
worked better for her
than Christ upon the cross
with his decorative piercings.

Bethany sharpened her sense
of broken-down-in-urban-America
so the pieces fit properly.
No light shined through rough edges.
No cold winds pressed bare skin.

She relaxed into herself
as if lying on a pile of raked leaves
with the smoke of other piles
thick in the air before cities
banned such fiery rehearsals.

Bethany heard the song of the world
and how flat and out of rhythm
her life-notes were within it.
And the counter melody
of the long scars upon her body—

her repeated dash in the buff
through a thorn bush thicket
thinking she could embody
the Christ’s thorny crown
under the watchful eyes of owls.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Suddenly

Bethany awoke
naked and confused
as a morning shower
dotted her skin
in a breezeless field
of lavender rows.

She sat up
and spotted
her dropped cloths
leading back
to the two-lane
highway—
the only way
in or out
of the peninsula.

She remembered
walking away
from a rumor-filled
harbor town
where pedestrian eyes
drilled holes in her spine
and the neighbor
who poisoned her dog.

A golden retriever
bounded
down the heavily
scented rows
to investigate her,
bowled her over
back onto the dirt
and planted
dog kisses
upon her
tight-lipped face.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Pink Pearl

Paul did not remember
what he told Dora
of his gospel of terror
and that he
is merely a reflection
of the clouds
on the river’s surface.

He remembers
how he and Dora
flapped their arms
and laughed
until tears
squeezed out
of their eyes
under the cedar waxwings
in the hawthorn tree.

He thinks about
how the world looks
from the river bottom
eyes open looking up
through the
tannin curtain
at the passing clouds
and the blackbirds
in the cattails.

It explains
that look
he often wears
and how his logic
has this sense
of erasure
as the pebble
strikes the surface
and ripples
through the clouds.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wait For The Next Full Moon

It is Summer. Paul is cold.
His spine shivers. His ribcage rattles.

His shallow breath
suffocates his heart’s fire.

He will not share this memory
with you, or anyone,

because he has not yet shared it
with himself.

He was in his thirties
when the memory began to emerge.

Somehow genetics knows
only an adult can process certain experiences.

If only the release of this memory
did not have a time stamp,

forcing Paul to relive it again as though
he was four to seven years old.

How his logical mind fights the process
with adult suppression techniques

such as blended whiskeys, work
and over-the-counter medications.

His left arm trembles
as he reaches for the latest miracle cure

which is the booted foot
kicking the can farther down a long road.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In The Bloodstream

Where lies the key?
I checked every pocket.
Every nook and cranny.

In and under
fifty-three self-help books
by domestic and foreign authors.

At a job fair I learned
I should use my gifts
toward my perfect career

which left me with the choice
of joining the French Foreign Legion
or becoming a suicide bomber.

As I practice exhaling the apocalypse
and envisioning a future
less bright than a nuclear explosion,

I am certain the mightiest proof
of my inner strength
is that I decided to make a career

out of bicycling from my front door
to Who-Knows-Where America
with the notion of reaching Nirvana

somewhere in between
leaving it all behind
and a collision with an untoward fate.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In A Way That Will Change Him

At Rockford University,
in an upstairs lounge,
a poetry reading takes place.

The poet ignores the itch
upon the bridge of his nose
and forces his right hand down.

His words echo off the walls.
They jump on the couch with orange cushions.
They rock the lampshades.

There are no bodies to absorb
the report of his strident voice.
No ears to take in his pastoral descriptions.

This is not practice.
This is not a man in love with his own voice.
You cannot see his poems are a tool for letting go.

How each word tethers a time and event
and releases little pieces of the trenches
outside of Petersburg into the air.

But it is his descriptions of Appomattox
with its surrounding farm fields on rolling hills,
its oak and hickory stands

that he focuses on in his search for peace.
An inner peace where the wars that divide him
come to a gracious and generous close.

As his eyes move as if the room were full,
he catches sight of several mourning doves,
landing on an oak branch outside the window.

He takes this as a sign
and lets his voice dwindle and settle
onto the polished floorboards.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Purification

I spilled out of myself yesterday.
It was oral. I mean verbal.

A lot of words strung together,
sometimes coherently.

I made a mess of the cafe table top.
The Cin-O-Bun soaked up a few fragments.

It happened in front of a girl.
Name unknown. Braces tinned her smile.

I cannot determine if she was
a target of opportunity

or simply near the dumping zone,
hazarding collateral damage.

There were plenty of melodramatics
smeared on the table.

The girl flagged down a busboy.
He wiped the table clean as a whistle.

All my spontaneous confessions
now afloat in soapy water,

soon to go down the drain
to the treatment plant for purification.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Recognition

If I inherited
my parents’ home,
I would have
taken it apart
brick by brick
and paid for
the foundation
to be extracted
from the ground.

Knowing that
sitting beneath
any hawthorn tree
with darting cardinals
and cedar waxwings
feels like home
as long as I
hold Seymour
the troll doll
my eldest brother
gave me
one long ago
Christmas.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney