Self-Determination

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

More Often than Supposed

Sometimes. Still. In the carnage
of Ukraine’s front lines
a soldier expels his beloved’s name
riding an explosive shock wave
or crawling across a plowed field.

The stone gargoyles of Europe
leave their edifices
and fly to Ukraine’s battlefield
to consume the dead
and take rectangular shapes.

At a critical moment one side
fails to notice that a dirty white sheet
flapping in the wind
means something entirely other than
a mud-splattered ghost.

You again, a soldier says
facing a school chum across the street
on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
He shouts, Take cover!
knowing mortar rounds are flying.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Friends

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

Selected with Intention

We were to meet at the cafe at eleven.
You were a half-hour early.

I knew this was your habit
but did not prepare.

You said I knew you would be
on the patio.

Your pandemic concern had asked
to meet me on the patio.

You settled your bones
on the opposite chair.

In your purse you promised
answers resided for the mysteries of life.

I knew it was poetry books—
part of your dwindling collection

that once stretched four bookcases
across your living room wall.

I received my share of the dispersal
of your worldly goods

while you could enjoy the giving
of such treasures.

Seven books with post-its
marking pages

and notes in the margins
in pen and pencil.

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

Dispersed

Paul fades in the distance.
He walks home from a visit.
Earlier he entered my studio touched.

The second dictionary meaning.
Slightly insane. Crazy.
Affected by something unspoken.

He floated like a cloud.
Heavy with rain.
Too thick to catch a glimpse of the sun.

He poured himself a cup of tea.
He perched on a stool.
Then a workbench.

Then he stood adjacent to my canvas.
He pointed to something.
His finger touched the wet paint.

A combination of white and blues
in the process of becoming sky.
He wiped his fingertip on my blue jeans.

I turned to glare at him.
He stared back daring me.
My brush stroked his nose.

He broke into a grin.
The grin expanded to laughter.
His laugh was infectious.

We laughed for a good long while.
We laughed until our sides ached.
He clapped me on the back.

No rag removed the paint from his nose.
He exited my studio.
He walked up the grassy hill toward home.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Paul Creates Two Stacks of Documents

The one on the right is standard letter sized
eight & a half by eleven sheets
all white with black inkjet print
and stacks neatly as if ready
for a box.

The one on the left is random sizes
shapes colors from little cards
with cute mice eating seeds on them
to a drawing of a map
that emulates the world
as seen by Amerigo Vespucci
but in bright colored pencil
instead of faded ink.

The right stack could be poems
based on the irregular
amount of words and letters
and the spacing on them.
Eight hundred and twenty three sheets
all with a date from the calendar year
twenty-twenty.

The threat is the paper shredder
on a short table in between
the two stacks.

The threat is the last orders
(will and testament)
that spells out
in plain English
to destroy a life’s work.

These two stacks are just the beginning.
One studio closet is full
of manuscript boxes
and several portfolio cases.
And that does not count the walls
hung with framed work
or poems push-pinned onto plaster.

Paul opens a whiskey bottle
and pours himself a drink.
He swishes it about his mouth like Listerine.
Then swallows.

The power button on the shredder
glows blue after he presses it.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

A Dark Body of Clouds

A dark body of clouds enters my brain.
It is a line from a poem.
It is a covid fog slowing my thoughts.

It is not I who caught covid, but Cathryn.
Being my friend, I share her burden.
This dark body of clouds.

Happily it does not cause dark thoughts.
The fog causes people to think she is a ditz.
In this shared existence I am thought a ditz as well.

The darkness is how cruel people can be
when their expectations go unmet.
Thunder voices hurl insults at our covid slowness.

We could hurl insults back at their ignorance.
We could hurl stick or stones.
In tandem we remain silent.

If we could find ninety-eight more people
to share Cathryn’s burden
each of us would carry one-percent fog.

Thus disperse the dark body of clouds
back into a line of poetry.
Oh darn. I cannot think of the poet’s name.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

The poet whose name I covid-fog do not remember in the last line of the poem is Mary Ruefle. The title is a variation from her poem title “Darke Body of Clowds”. It is found in her book “Indeed I Was Please With The World“.

I do hope you (dear readers) have gotten your covid-19 vaccinations. Cathryn is one friend who has long haul covid difficulties. Over the past 15 months several acquaintances passed away from the attack of the virus upon their bodies. So I hope you take the virus seriously.

Mike

The last mass you attended
you were in the coffin
that kept you dry
from the million tears
a hundred mourners shed.

It has been decades
since you dressed in altar boy white
and performed your sacred trust
knowing your papa would treat us
to ice cream soon after the benediction.

I remember how you waited
for spring to warm enough
to dry the cold ground
so a ball striking a swung bat
did not sting so much.

I remember the night
you ate nine bananas on a dare
before you drank your first pint
while the Friday night fish fried.

During the regular season
I miss calling you up
and talking baseball for hours.
Conversation interspersed with the updates
on family and friends.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

Like many of my poems this one is a mix of fact and fiction. Mike and I met in our 30s. We played on the same softball team. We became friends with baseball as one of our focuses—both MLB and the APBA baseball simulation game.

Mike passed away last year. I began thinking about him again as Spring training started up because he and I would have been on the phone talking about the upcoming season and the reports on which rookies looked promising.