Poetry Waits for a Walk

Lori and Paul talked poetry.
Rain fell but did not slant under the porch roof.

Poetry looked like a dog.
It rested on the porch with its nose an inch from the rain.

Lori and Paul sat opposite each other on a couch.
It was an old couch demoted to the porch.

Poetry’s nose told it the rain was not in good health.
Lori and Paul never thought of the rain as sick.

The rain did not complain. Its job was falling.
It collected slower than normal to run the gutters.

The rain did not splash as high when it exited the gutter
and hit the flag stone drainage slab.

Poetry noticed the rain puddled like healthy rain.
Puddling was easy as lying in bed.

Poetry heard the grass complain about the taste of the rain.
Lori and Paul heard none of this.

They did spy a note four raindrops carried from the sky.
The rain was excused from soaking into the ground.

Lori thought it should go straight to the riverbed and sleep.
Paul thought the tomatoes would not ripen until the next rain.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Appetite

Paul thought it better
to be a victim than an executioner.

He thought the quality
of his coworkers improved in that scenario.

Also, he might meet the requirements
of conscientious objector in times of war.

Whether he would fight or not
depended on location, location, location.

If his home hosted the war—yes.
If it was an away war—no.

Paul stared into the orange peel
that remained after eating the fruit segments.

His dog sat next to Paul
after Paul ate the last orange segment.

His dog saw a squirrel low in a tree.
He remained by Paul.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Nearing Midnight

Lori does not sleep.
Who has the time.

The dog lays on his back.
He scratches the air.

It is eleven-forty-seven.
The new calendar day arrives early.

The dog is black as night
with so many stars he appears grey.

The clock strikes midnight.
Knocks it out in the third round.

The dog is ready for anything.
Anything is fast asleep too.

Lori rolls to the clock-less side of the bed.
Slow sleep embraces her.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Kings Canyon

When Annie discovered heaven
was harps and angelic choirs
without baseball or dogs
she changed her religion
to one focused on reincarnation.

She treated pastors
like used car salesmen
trying to get her to purchase
a pretty junker
she knew she did not want.

She always liked the Sunday bells
that called everyone together—
community over congregation
and the disturbed admonitions
of the black-robed men.

Summer pilgrimages
took her to national parks
where she turned Baptist
and immersed herself
in natural beauty.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Storm Theory

Every time it rained cats and dogs
the storm clouds left out a few breeds
as if there was a contract
designating days off for Dachshunds
Cornish Rexes and so on.

Lori was particularly worried
she would be walking Faith, her chow-shepherd mix
when some cloud would come along
and take her dog up into the sky
just so it could fall elsewhere.
Then there would be doggy return fees
for shipping and handling.

Since she was pretty sure Tuesday
was the designated day off for chow-shepherd mixes
she took extra long walks
past all manner of gardens and meadows
and forests at the edge of town.

The one time a cloud did whisk up Faith
it seemed an eternity before the phone rang to inform Lori
Faith fell on Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade
and a nice couple would take good care of her
until Lori could make the drive to Coolidge Corner.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mother and Dog

In all the years since my mother’s death
she has not once visited me in ghostly form.

I take this as a sign she is at peace
and the hereafter is more like a craft project than a poem.

I know I was not easy to raise.
My rascally brain did not appreciate syntax or logic.

She was like a window shade kept down
to keep a house plant from the sun.

I grew anyway—tall, thin and awkward.
It took befriending a dog for me to fill out in mind and body.

Time treated mother and me the same in spite of our differences.
Our similarities. Our love of mac & cheese.

When I picture her in my mind
I hold her hand when we cross the street.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


Lori developed a mixed-grain alcohol
she labeled Devil’s Surrogate.

A small snake lay dead in the bottom
of each amber glass bottle.

No one was expected to swallow the snake.

Municipalities brought back Sunday blue laws
even though each label was printed with bible verses.

Those who drank more than three fingers
fell into a fevered state of proselytizing

the redemption of feral dogs.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Beggared Promise

I sat in the middle of my marriage.
She orbited me touching compass points.

Our house was large enough
for us to not see each other all the time.

The dogs liked the middle where I sat
when thunder rolled through the valley.

Otherwise the dogs were near her
especially when she worked the garden.

We practiced tender temperaments
like some people practice yoga.

We liked best
when there was nothing between us.

But I know you know
such states do not last forever.

The map of our marriage
marked where there may be dragons.

That is what happens when the map
is the flat page of our daughter’s death certificate.

The tenderness we practiced served us well
negotiating divorce.

That was a long time ago.
A shimmering halo of released doves.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dogwood We Joked

After Paul’s dog
was put down
when her kidneys failed
he dug a hole
and filled it with
the canine body
and on top
he placed a sapling.
This grave event
required a starry
darkness to open
a small door
in Paul’s brain
for technicolor memories
to turn sepia
through acceptance
and letting go
of grief.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Chip

This cottonwood tree
by the bosque hiking trail
is where some unknown person
tied up and left a dog.

The dog was a bit thin
so one may surmise
the person suffered financially
during the pandemic.

Though many people
are poor businessmen
and fail due to a lack
of understanding markets.

The person was kind enough
to leave a bright pink bowl
filled with water
for the dog.

Without a sign or obvious note
I was reluctant to believe
the dog was displayed for the taking
like a file cabinet at the curb.

I started to walk away
then spotted three coyotes
off to my left in the cottonwoods
headed in the dog’s direction.

Once I untied the dog
she picked up her pink bowl
in her mouth
unwilling to leave it behind.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney