Paul took a syringe filled with laughter
injected it into himself to lighten his heart.

He did so at an inappropriate time
when levity was not appreciated by anyone listening.

Paul was glad the injection had the long term effect
of allowing him to fly in his dreams.

He learned what was on the other side of the mountain
and the fact (over there) the grass was no greener.

Paul started telling his dour unhappy friends to go away.
Their DWIs would go undocumented except by the courts.

He thought about the first day he tasted oblivion
and found it bitter to the extreme.

That was the day he knew the company misery kept
was not the company he wished to keep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lori Left Months Ago

When serendipity brings us together
on a distant city’s mass transit platform
our surprise is complete
and we hug longer than customary
even for friends long separated.

Her train leaves the platform
with her staring at me
six inches from my face
while we talk and talk and talk
about all the things
we never said before
because close proximity
affected the risk-reward calculation
of speaking our minds.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


We ate almonds and apple slices
at a picnic table.

We debated whether this public square
should be lined with fruit trees.

You suggested the drought will turn
this city into a wasteland.

We discussed the Ukraine war
as if we were military tacticians.

Your dog carried a rat it killed
and dropped it between our feet.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bazooka Joe

The chains that supported
the saddles of the swing set
listened to our conversation
for a whole hour
which corresponded
to the amount of time
we pumped and rose
in pendulum motion—
our heads never reaching
the crossbar height.

The chains took notes
like minutes of a meeting
between the President
and Secretary of War
discussing strategy
for dealing with strangers
who smelled too good
to be true
while ignoring
the bubblegum wad
I pressed between two metal links
once the flavor was gone.

Each time I return alone
after dark to those swings
they recite our last meeting verbatim.
And during this performance
I hear you hold your breath
and never use my first name
preferring to use my
martial nickname.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


I stopped meeting my friends for happy hour.
I stopped reading the news.

I ceased going to my cafe to write.
I ceased greeting people’s dogs on hiking trails.

I put an end to attending poetry readings.
I put an end to getting my palm read.

Placing book reviews on Amazon came to an end.
Knowing the future came to an end.

I swept the kitchen floor seven times today.
I washed every doorknob nine times.

I sterilized everything except for a batch of cookies.
I washed the empty beer bottles twice.

All my books are now my friends.
All my friends are yesterday’s pages in my diary.

I watched every Star Trek episode over again.
I studied an ant crawling up the shower curtain.

Hunger is disoriented and arrives at odd intervals.
Tragedy waits in the zeal of Sunday churchgoers.

My phone is painful to hold when it rings.
Uncontrollable shivers rattle my bones from time to time.

I attempt to learn the subtle meanings
of my dog’s various woofs.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney