Persistence

Delphi tells new people she meets
they wear the face of God.

Those people who see
a demon in the mirror

choose not to believe her
for at least ten hearings.

It is only after the twelfth time
a crack in their marble facades

appears in the faintest
glimmer of a smile

that the unassumed dare
might contain an ecstasy.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Loneliness

I do not know what I have done
and I do not suspect God will answer me
whether I am on my knees at the alter
or on a walk through the woods.

And what is worse is that each morning
I wake and look into the mirror
only to wonder whose eyes those are
that look back at me with such reproach.

There is a promise I have threatened to make
which, with twisted words, might mean
I will love my self, but, on some days
it is more a bargain just to see the sunset

and lay my head down again upon the pillow
in the slight knowledge that tomorrow might be better,
might be the day when my soul walks inside of me—
not two steps behind and one to the right.

Down at the river where the rusted railroad bridge
supports the many nests of swallows
I gamble with the dusk, with bread that draws
the ducks over to speak for me

to the God who must reside in the distorted sky
as it is reflected in the water below the bridge,
below the darting swallows, as a McDonalds’ cup
fails to snag on any of the river’s branches or rocks.

But no one speaks, except for that voice within my head,
the voice that says, You are ugly. You incompetent boob.
You … The list goes on and reciting it darkens the moon
as it rises above the trees, as the sun filters orange and red.

There is the offer of the bridge, of the bloated fish that float by,
of the river’s merciless current that lifts the dead and discarded
and carries them toward the sea—but the river with its flow
will not fill the emptiness, nor carry me back to God’s loving arms.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bootstraps

We stopped seeking the Etruscans
amid the old, lonely thoughts
and assumed them absorbed

and dispersed through the larger stock
of the Romans as they spread
across their burgeoning empire.

The study of God, god, gods
fell away as well, this terra cotta notion
of in-grave kings and queens,

this riverine country of shoulder length hair,
the blackness of coffee a more perfect measure
of morning-afters in Winter.

What time is it to you, now that your ghost towns
have names in a forgotten language?

What day are you the lioness? The gazelle?
The small black spider with red markings?

Yes, you are slim enough for apples,
a serpentine appellation when you dance,
for night dark chocolate to alter our poetry.

But, the fact that your hand searches the wall
by the door for a switch, a light, the static glow
of molecules in excited motion

suggests something I can’t quite place my finger on,
the index key lost to the translation
of alder trees after the fire.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

On Schedule

A girl on a bus stop bench cries and kicks her legs outward
and connects with several city transit underwriters.

The marvel is that no one offered comfort or solace.
Not even a candy bribe for the girl to desist.

If only it were a literary enterprise and not real life
with minds churning through business calculations

to leapfrog hours to lunch at an oyster bar
or the drudgery of strip club cleaning before hours.

No one thinks of a miracle or invokes God
at least not in a positive manner.

With the arrival of the bus
the girl ceases her tears and kicking.

She believes her tantrum caused it to arrive all the quicker
when actually it was exactly on time.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Solstice

Snow falls
like God’s
white hair
undone
as a ribbon
pulls free
and the locks
cascade
down upon
the rounded
shoulders
and curved spine
covering
the series
of separate
and articulated
bones
of faith.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cache of Four

My sleep drifts.
I wake unintentionally slanted.
I walk all day at an angle.
Lean in my chair.
My cursive handwriting improves.

Each Christian meme
reinforces the proclamation
I am not saved
and heaven rejects me
at the river’s edge
because I do not claim
Jesus as my savior.

Just south of Albuquerque
the green farm fields
contrast the desert land
above the flood plain
and though the Rio Grande
does not appear swift or deep
the current will drag
you under for the fishes
and bull frogs.

In places God seems readily apparent
and those places have nothing
to do with humans
and their destructive constructions.
I cannot claim to know fully
how Ego skyrocketed
apartments and business buildings
into right-angle canyons.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Tortures Paul

He dreams of his daughter
snatched from his hands
by an American eagle,
magicked away by pixies,
torn away by wolves,
held for ransom by kidnappers,
floated out the window on a dark melody
by mysterious musical notes,
swallowed whole by a snake,
lifted skyward by the thumb
and index finger of God.

He wakes shuddering.
His hands feel so empty
they might as well not exist.
Touch cannot be trusted
ever again.

He can not shake this feeling
that he was pulled
far outside himself,
futilely trying to stop
the tragedy, holding on
until the predatory
Angel of Death
pried his fingers
away from dear life.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Three Struck Matches On The Table

Thin kerosene lamp mantles scream,
throw mud-clod light
upon locust speckled walls
as a turntable spins out
Paint It Black
disconnected from speakers
and the needle-scratch
fishnets this Sodom house,
but never skips
surfing the time warped vinyl
and I furiously search
through my dresser drawers
for something to wear
other than the hand me down
Old Testament God.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Roll Over

When you roll over in bed
all things become tabulated
and cease to be guesses
or assumptions.

No Marvel superhero
has this power.
No sound effects
need be added to the scene.

You roll over in bed
once each night,
thus inventory is taken
with accounting accruals and deferrals.

This is not the same
as knowing everything.
So you are not God
with omnipotent knowledge.

When you roll over in bed
the sheets pull from my body
as if you require every square inch of white
to complete your calculations.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Nirvana

A mother’s love
is not guaranteed at birth.

Genetics supply
only a protective instinct.

Postpartum depression
cancels both.

This is the way of the world.
God made it so.

To find perfection in this fact
is to stand on Nirvana’s cusp.

I see you hesitate to walk
into an unpolished pearl.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney