Dogwood We Joked

After Paul’s dog
was put down
when her kidneys failed
he dug a hole
and filled it with
the canine body
and on top
he placed a sapling.
This grave event
required a starry
darkness to open
a small door
in Paul’s brain
for technicolor memories
to turn sepia
through acceptance
and letting go
of grief.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

After Richard Died

Parents ignored the warning sign.
I broke things just to cry over our brokenness.

I remember there were times father wanted to unhinge me
and take a look under the hood.

He mistook my brain for steel girders
he could unscrew joint by joint and stack neatly.

I do not understand why two people who craved order
had children and all the accompanying messiness.

There was the subtle violence of being called by the wrong name.
How I saw more stars at night than others.

How I opened my mouth to speak
and words never came out in the right order.

How my word’s cluttered existence
dismantled my parents carefully constructed stiff upper lips.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Beside Myself With Grief

Grief is a landlord
who evicts me
as past trauma
ebbs and flows with the present.

It holds possession
of my body
while I watch displaced
from oblique angles.

Of course you cannot imagine
what it is like
to be separated from that
for which you were born to inhabit.

Maybe vast Grief
gave rise to the notion
of the soul
being separate

from the body
and sins the body suffers
at the hands of others.
Or worse—self.

Grief does not ground me
but flies me like a kite
while it acts as a place holder
inside myself.

The only thing to do
is use the tether
to communicate with my tongue
or my fingers to type

so my Grief enters
the ears of others—
who hearing my story
help me carry this brutal survival.

Now it is possible to evict Grief
from my body
and return the flesh
back to its rightful resident.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dreamt He Was Not Dreaming

Paul placed grief in the cedar chest
so it would be fresh
for the next friend who passed away.

He thought of washing his grief
before storing it.
He wished to hang it

on the crescent moon to air dry
but he might lose it
when an owl flew by.

Paul awoke at night
hearing an owl call from a branch
outside his bedroom window.

In the morning he opened
the cedar chest
to double check his grief was still there.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Unable to carve
in stone
Paul accepts
the penetration
of the tattoo artist’s
sharp pens.

Norse Runes
in a band
up and around
the arm shoulder
and back
as if flesh
was stone.

A story.

Her story
mirrored in an odd mix
of ancient
modern words.

Once he wore
a talisman.
Keltic loops
woven serpentine
that disguised
a pentacle
and heart—
Love is Magic.

It lay with its twin
in her grave.
Gold for future
robbers and thieves
to excavate.

Also on him
Santa Muerte.
Mythology mix.
Modern adaptation.
Neo creationism
for what the spirit

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul’s grief
chose not to speak
unable to find
the right words.

He purchased words for his grief
over the internet
but they would not arrive
for two days.

In the mean time
Paul supplied his grief
with his drawing pads
and colored pencils

hoping that
it would create a message
through an art image
before his heart broke.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The debate cut its teeth
on the stone wall
and a solitary fright feather
drifted down
on an uneven path
where a boy crossed over.
It caused him to halt
with one foot on each side,
believing a snow flake
had fallen.
He lifted his head skyward,
mouth opened
to catch flurries,
but saw in heaven’s
persistent window
the mirror of his grave
freshly dug in the thick
cemetery grass.
He thought of his mother
crying out in grief
and wished to comfort her
but could not
un-straddle himself
from the stone wall
to return to his adobe home
through the landscape
thick with cholla
and the thrashers
that nested in them.
In this straight
he appealed to his
guardian angel for release
from spiritual obligation,
this errand of solace
for the bereft.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul mistook his voice
for a headstone hallucination
in the whisky shot aftermath
downed in salute.

There the voice was again,
with trillions upon trillions of miles
of heaven travel grime
spattered upon it.

It dripped with dark matter.
With Higgs bosons.
With a neutrino halo
caught in the gravity of Paul’s grief.

His voice bruised Paul’s ears.
Might as well have been a meteorite
slamming into Albuquerque,
cratering the day’s expectations.

The voice momentarily
fossilized Paul’s bones and breath
and tears fell from his eyes deepening
the scuffed bootblack on his shoes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

After Our Daughter’s Death

Our home became a house.
A house on an island instead of outside of town.

Our ears became open wounds.
Words became salt.

We took Sadness in as a boarder.
We don’t remember inviting Sadness to stay.

Sadness practiced magical spells
that turned our blood to sludge.

Sadness promised to pay us monthly
with a bucket of tears.

A few people rented their respects to us.
They charged late fees on the returns.

We had not read friendship’s fine print.
No wonder our friend numbers contracted.

Our island was washed away
by a bomb cyclone divorce storm.

Our neighbors were relieved by our absence.
Our friends had no clue where the far shore was.

In divorce we split Sadness in two.
She kept both of the dogs.

I let my half of Sadness go so I could hold on to Loneliness.
They were kissing cousins willing to share me.

The day I lost eighteen hours in a blue ocean
was the day I understood I needed a life boat.

I built a life boat out of poetry and therapists
and bicycling and the wooded landscape.

Sadness helped keep the life boat afloat
by paying up on its overdue rent.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


It is coming up on 30 years since all of this happened. It still touches me from time to time. One of the disadvantages of memory. I remember my therapist telling me that 85% of couples who lose a child end up in divorce by the end of the first year after the loss. In some ways I think the divorce was the start of moving on from the loss.

In the poem I am a little hard on friends. I should not be. We were all in our late 20s early 30s and no one knew how to deal with this sort of tragedy. Learning curve mistakes were made by everyone.

I hope none of you suffer a heart breaking loss like this in your life time. Be generous of spirit with yourself if it does. Be full of emotions as well. If you hold onto the pain of the tragedy too long it will twist your growing.

I am feeling it all over again as I write this postscript. Not in a bad way. Feelings with a reminder of sadness and weariness. It will calm down when I am ten minutes out from typing.

Love & Light. Tree & Leaf.