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

Safe Place

Paul sought sanctuary among the aspens.

They granted it after
he dropped on his knees in tears.

They softened the afternoon sunshine.

The aspens shifted him away from the stream
into the center of the grove.

Here they protected him while he grieved.

They mistook his tears
for sap running down his trunk.

For an hour they protected his reflection.

They covered his scent
and stirred the leaves where his footprints marked.

Early spring smelled damp amid snow melt.

Rootlets grew upward
from the soil to touch his knees—console him.

The forest smelled good he remembered.

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


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

We Go Forward

I float by your side
like a balloon
you still hold onto
from childhood.

Your blue eyes
reflect on my face
turning me blue—
Lake Crescent blue.

I hover close
as you wash coffee cups,
sweep the floor
and make the bed.

Today, you have
less patience
for the mud
tracked across the floor.

Each clod reminds you
of the grave
and the first shovel full
tossed in ceremony.

You tie me
to the brass door nob
and lose yourself
rereading The Hobbit.

Before bed you cry
because you require a pill
for some semblance of sleep
next to my absence.

The chemical chain
unties me from the door nob.
After you toss the covers
I float into your dreams.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Over my regular glasses
I wear my dad’s sunglasses
that I took from his crumpled dashboard.
I drive out to the rural intersection
where he thought the stop
was four-way but was two
and pulled out to cross
two lanes of traffic.

As I expected the county sheriffs
did not sweep up all the small
broken bits of his car
letting traffic’s tires
push them toward the shoulder.
I search the debris seeking
a good luck keepsake that hung
from his rearview mirror.

Wearing his sunglasses
I see back in time
to his error in perception
and glimpse the truck barreling
around the curve with bad timing
or perfect timing, if you believe
in predestination.

From the corner gas station,
I purchase a cherry popsicle
and break it in two
to share it with my dad.
Still wearing his sunglasses
I see him slide in next to me
take the offered popsicle
and we share it like when I was young.

I never found the keepsake
among the bits of debris.
I left the sunglasses
by the side of the road
adjacent to a popsicle stick
with a trail of cheery red liquid
slowly navigating the asphalt
into the intersection.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


When I wake
from the gleam of your shine,
you sit at the end
of my bed and pull
the covers off my torso
so my skin
raises goose flesh
and you laugh.

Somehow the dog
does not wake through this exchange
and makes small woofs
through a dream.

I see you
look as if you are ten years old
when you did not reach
that age alive.

You see me
pull my body up
into a sitting position
to view you eye to eye.

I pull a pillow over
to cover exposed skin
and watch you rise crosslegged
in some levitation trick
so your eyes
are above mine,
though I question
if it is in judgement.

It is now thirty years gone
and I have done all the atonement
I could think of for being a parent living
when you are not.

You extend you legs to touch the bed
and walk forward to where I sit,
lean and kiss me on the cheek
knowing that will untie
the last tether I use to hold on to you.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Real And Imagined

Lynn curls in the wisps of fog.
She is steam. She is ghost.
She makes snow angels in our front yard.

Lynn is always one step ahead of me
through the pines, through the alders,
across the rocky flanks of the mountain.

Do not worry about my wanderings.
Earthly geography is a simple thing.
I cannot become more lost than I am.

I seek Lynn in the light
as I top every rise,
as I round every curve.

This holding on pulls me
over the slightest mountain trails
in among the bears.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

North Face

Paul cries.
His tears strike his palms like rolling thunder.
Black motes pock his life line.

The clouded sky echoes his sentiment.
Lightning crowns the mountains.
Electric thorns seeking Jesus.

Paul’s nostrils fill with ozone,
the crisp of a struck ponderosa,
the sap seared to carbon.

He gasps for air between sobs.
He claws the sky seeking purchase.
This letting go shreds him.

Four now. The disassociations.
The angels between sheets of rain.
The snow angel of his prostrate flailing.

He throws rocks and fists at his other selves.
A puncher’s chance.
A knockout blow.

Trauma drunk. He staggers to the tree line.
Dark limbs embrace warmer air.
Alders peel the thunder of its crash.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney