Oceans are blind.
Telephone lines are deaf and dumb.

At the bottom of the ocean
lies ten thousand miles of transoceanic cables.

Text message threads.
Voice message threads.

Compressed image binary data bundles
decompress on transoceanic screens.

My new niece’s baby face
appears on my phone in Albuquerque

all the way from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Apple of my eye.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Twenty-Nine Years On

My father died
on the third of August
nineteen ninety-two
in an auto accident
when he mistook
a two-way stop
for a four-way stop
after surviving
the nineteen-eighteen influenza
the great depression
World War Two
the Korean War
the death of his son
and a heart attack.

At his funeral
and after we spread
his ashes
over the cornfields
he farmed
as a young man
his voice kept appearing
in my ears
with mixed messages
about how I handled
the death of my daughter
and other aspects
of being a man.

If his voice showed up
in my dreams
I could have
written off the experience
as the chaotic language
dreams use for the dead
to communicate with the living
even if their fist pounds
into their open palm
and shouts
I should embrace
the church and work
not therapy
to quiet my pounding heart.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Before The World Worried

The year I went to the state fair
I was prone to getting lost in crowds.

I spent the entire afternoon at a demo
watching a man clean glasses for people.

His pitch was the cleaned glasses
would not fog up.

His fog maker steamed vapor
and he proved his claim true.

The man sold many jars of this cleaner.
I bought one with dropped change I collected.

Eventually my eldest brother found me
where I stood with clean glasses.

He jerked me up and carried me on his hip
back to the midway.

We waited by the candy apple stand
for the family to reassemble.

He did not buy me a candy apple
while we waited a few minutes.

He held my hand
until we entered the car for the ride home.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Post Mortem

Father’s emptiness
spilled into every corner of the house.

His emptiness evicted his feelings.
Emptiness chilled him through and through.

Our house became the house of held breath.
Our house became the house of tangible absences.

In the yard we planted a memorial tree.
Its growth rings recorded a thousand confessed remorses.

Nothing I tell father goes past his ears.
His void does not carry sound.

Mother, broom in hand, swept emptiness
to the living room and under the carpet.

The house thought it protected the world
behind hidden doors.

After a year, the emptiness was a thin layer
of ash and dust still warm from the furnace.

After a year, I answered when my parents
called me by my brother’s name.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


I caught Serendipity by the tail.
Now I am a flea thrown mid-wag

by seeing the car pull up
to disgorge seven children

at the rubber band snapping age
infused with floating dandelion puff wonder.

Thrown mid-wag I double somersault
into the sequel of the Sunday sacrifice

of a half gallon of ice cream
and two jars of chocolate sauce

which has become ritualized
into a weekly event

after rediscovering the great outdoors
in a park totally lacking suspicion

while lined by sinister houses
on the opposite side of the street.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


In the American Civil War
during battle
a soldier fired his musket into the air
far above the enemy line.
Thou shalt not kill,
he quoted,
when his captain
ordered him
to lower his aim.

After the battle,
his captain
summoned him,
asked him why
he volunteered
at the first call.
Because my brother
signed the muster sheet
and I could not
let him go to war

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


In the early years of the American Civil War this scene took place more often than most people realize. There were many men on both sides trying to resolve their sense of duty to country with their sense of duty to God. This resolution was influenced by each man’s sense of duty to family. These our three sets of powerful feelings / emotions / oaths that each man had to prioritize and resolve how he was going to act during combat.

Imagine the inner conflict during a fire fight, when you feel you must fire your rifle and stand by your brother, but feel more strongly that killing, even in war, is murder and against God’s will. It takes a type of courage not usually discussed in books to stand in the line of battle and receive fire from an enemy trying to kill you, while you are doing your best not to kill them. At the same time you are trying to fulfill all the other obligations of manhood and duty so not to be thought a coward by your company.

Two interesting books are For Cause And Comrade, by McPherson. This book explores the motives for fighting in the civil war by the soldiers who volunteered 1861 to the end of 1862. Fighting Means Killing, Steplyk is a study of the effect of the war on the men who prosecuted it and how they reacted to the extreme stress of battle.

Albuquerque’s balloon fiesta starts its second week today. Once the sun rises a bit, the sky will be dotted with up to 250 balloons. That assumes the weather allows. High winds cancel lift off.

Love & Light