Lights Go Out

On a bedstand
a sprig of lavender dries

over a photo of Father
wearing one of his rare smiles.

A curtain of song
darkens a quartet of windows.

Liberated,
Lori’s hair falls past her shoulders.

From another room,
the news describes the violence

of the ignored
refusing to be the ignored any longer.

She whispers a prayer
for the protesters and law enforcement.

The sky reddens.
She fears the phone may ring.

She settles into her bed.
A block of ice.

The lavender scent
flashes images of her very first dog.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Like Any Good Son

Like any good son,
I was not good all the time.

Like many good sons,
I grew up, attended university,

forged my own life and career
which took me far from my father’s house.

Because I was far away in my own life,
I was not by my father’s side when he died.

He died in an auto accident,
so it is a good thing I was not by his side.

I attended his memorial in the church
he attended every Sunday for fifty years.

The service was midwestern-protestant
and beautiful in that manner.

Three hundred mourners told me
how his goodness touched them.

Like any good son, I kept quiet
about all the times he was not good.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Stiff

A father sledgehammers his son
with the “big boys don’t cry” lie.

The son learns to cry
in his own time, his own space.

There is a large rock upon the mountain
that collects his tears in a granite bowl.

The steel of the son’s spirit
strikes sparks upon the rock with each drop.

The son realizes the polished steel
is a looking glass and a weapon.

He chooses to use that steel
to prop his eyes open to the light.

In that light, he discerns the generational pain
lashed to his father’s hard words.

The son searches family photo albums
to learn what is long gone and sharply missed.

The photos devolve from color,
to black and white, to a stiff sepia.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ash Wednesday

If I stare long enough
I see my father in the rearview mirror
his visage overlapping mine.

A smudge marks
our forehead.
A thumb sized reconciliation.

Now he is distant.
At the far end of a gray, unlined highway.
Deceptive in its twists and turns.

On that highway’s shoulder
the litter of broken promises
as tossed bottles broken to shards cut tread.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Departed

When my father was a boy
he talked for long hours
to his mother in the hospital
after his brother shot him.

Family lore claims it was an accident.
A bullet left in the chamber
while cleaning the rifle—
a Sharps model 1878 I was told.

This was in a rural part of Illinois
that had yet to receive phone service.
You had to speak face to face
or not at all.

My father was too old for coloring books.
I picture grandmother reading
Tom Sawyer or The Connecticut Yankee
In King Arthur’s Court
aloud to him.

I suspect farm injury fears
are different than city injury fears
in the details, but not on how
they disfigure a body and person.

Maybe mothers held their tongues,
knowing boys had to learn to be men.
She had mostly worried
about his hours on the threshing machine.

My father was the first in the family
to leave the farm for good.
His mother wept at the train station
when he boarded for Chicago and university.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

POSTSCRIPT

Long ago, my father told me that my uncle (his brother) shot him when they were young. He did not give much detail. So I built his poem around that little nugget of history he shared. So this poem is truth diluted with imagination to fill in the gaps. He did leave the farm for Chicago to attend university and he did not return to live on the farm.

The heat wave has swept the USA and has affected Albuquerque with three 100+ degree days in a row and we are forecast for more. Those of you who live in areas experiencing this heat, please take care of yourselves. Here, outdoor activities are completed by 10:00 a.m. I usually get 10 miles of bicycling in before 9:00 a.m. I would like to say, I sweat like a pig, but in Albuquerque’s dry heat, the sweat evaporates too fast to bead on the skin.

Love & Light

Kenneth