Three Giant Steps

The dark told me a story about my father.
How he went to where a meteor fell.
Not to the place where it hit the ground.
But to the place it streaked across the sky.

My father went there to sew up the rip in the sky.
He found stationary lightning
awaiting a tornado’s passage below it
because it did not wish to compete for attention.

He thought of wielding the lighting as his own.
He thought better of that thought
and left the lightning to its own decisions.
It shot downward and split an apple tree.

Finding no rip to sew my father returned from the sky.
He first touched his foot on a mountain.
He second touched his foot on the river below the mountain.
His third stopped on the top doorstep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Father

I understand now.
I am slow. It took me some time.
Only the living change clothes
and addresses.

Oh! That explains why burial crypts
have many drawers—
none filled with shirts
or undergarments.

Last week I looked at your headstone
and wondered why
with all our technology
the stone is not shaped like your head.

I placed a Brooks Brothers catalogue
in your grave before the dirt covered you.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

This poem is about a father—not my father.

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

That Is Enough

Three decades have passed
since we eulogized my father
in the First Congregational Church.

The largest test of manhood I ever took
was to gracefully appreciate
all the good things others related to me

while I was silently relieved
he was gone from human form
and unmet father-son relations.

I grew up alright without ever
going hunting, fishing
or to a ball game with my father.

It was a less muscular manhood
I learned reading books
and bicycling long distances.

His version of Cowboy-up was not going to the ER
the day basketball mangled my right ankle.
We waited two days for a regular doctor appointment

as the breaks and ligament tears
painfully protested the lack of attention
by turning colors and swelling to great size.

I guess that did obliquely prepare me
for the rigors of adulthood
since hope and success are both painful.

I learned on my own to be the author
of definitions of the terms
and to judge my effort’s results.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Commitment To Seeing It Through

There is an edge.
A stonewall in a meadow.
Moss covered ground stones.

The meadow is full of flowers.
Both sides just as colorful.
Just as lovely.

You are injured.
You drowse with your back against the wall.
Head bent under your broad brimmed hat.

Your gentle breath pushes the breeze.
Just as easily it takes the breeze inside you.
You are unaware of the sweat bees on your arm.

Within your sleep you feel stings.
It is not the bees.
It is the memory dream of a CSI episode.

The sun shines equally on both sides of the stonewall.
The wildflowers snuggle up against the stones.
In some places they are high enough to hide the low wall.

Your father stands on the other side.
Swallowtail butterflies decorate his bare arms.
His bare feet bear dirt from his walk to this location.

Your mother waits on this side.
She calls out to you to finish your math homework.
To come to the kitchen for milk and cookies.

Her calling wakes you.
You stand. The bees take their leave.
Your shadow casts itself across the stonewall.

Your shadow alters its angle on the other side.
Confused, you pull back from your father.
You notice the greenery grows at different angles as well.

You walk across the field toward your mother.
Not because she called you. But for yourself.
Nothing to do with television characters.

Who grow louder as you cross the meadow.
You return to the antiseptic room with white walls.
Your mother reads aloud a poem from Now We Are Six.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney