Paul stumbled
on a couch foot
dropped to the floor
and spotted
a book
under the couch.
The book
was borrowed
from the library
months ago
and wore
magenta post-its
on seventeen pages
where someone
used yellow
to create
what Paul suspected
was a haiku
until he jotted
the seventeen words
on a sheet
of blue lined paper
with a fine point
felt-tip marker.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Busboy Seventh Grade

My first book covered the topics
of everything everyone already knew.

It turned out
not everyone knew these things.

As a whole humanity knew this stuff
but not each individual person.

It was only common knowledge
to those of us who spoke English

to a sixth grade proficiency
and collected baseball cards.

This accomplishment did nothing
to resolve my crush on Billy’s mother

who wrote one haiku per day
with the word fuck in it.

She was especially attractive
eating Chinese food with chopsticks.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Back Home on a Shelf

Paul sat writing haiku
wreathed in mist
among the cedars.

His haiku
were little poems
avoiding convention.

His dog Whisper
snuffled about
interested in a stray wine glass.

Paul decided
the fluted glass
was meant for champagne.

He imagined
forest mice getting drunk
on its contents.

Tipsy mice
vanish quickly
in owl talons.

Whisper licked
pine needles coated
with flattened bubbles.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Bent on my desk
an orange origami crane sits
one among a rainbow flock.

But it is that one
the light through the bent blind
illuminates as if chosen from on high.

And an imperfection
in the window glass
magnifies the intensity of the light

until it appears that one crane
practiced self-immolation
after browning and bursting

into orange flame
that mocked the color
of the crane’s paper.

I did not strike the flame
with the flat of my hand
but watched it flare and die out

leaving no mark on my desk
except a little flecks
when I swept up the ash.

And I swear I saw
the other paper cranes
spontaneously divulge haiku

as if the heat from the flame
caused lemon juice script
to darken.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Lying down on the couch,
Paul wondered if the couch
ever resented his weight
and desired a little
turnabout is fair play.

He realized how thankful he was
to have days so lazy
he could think such thoughts—
though thinking was too strong a word
when such a thought bubbled up.

Paul lifted himself upright,
dressed for a walk,
put Sugar brand spray cans
in his backpack
and headed out.

He planned to write haiku
on obscure concrete or brick
so only those folks searching
for seasonal enlightenment
would read them.

Paul saw this
as his last youthful siren song,
enticing him toward a rocky coast.
He balanced a fine if caught
against his increasing street cred.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mr. Hays

Mr. Hays taught remedial English.
That was Glenbard West high school.
He taught us to balance our checkbooks
before we had bank accounts.
He taught us to wash laundry properly
instead of deconstruct Melville’s Moby Dick.
He encouraged us to take cooking classes
so even as bachelors we would eat right.

He taught us other things to prepare us
for the real world of having only a high school diploma.
We never learned to write a haiku,
but we all had professional looking resumes.
I was the remedial oddball,
who went on to university to earn a higher degree.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Dianne pointed out that the word bachelors excludes girls. The remedial English class this poem refers to, my Junior year English class, was a dozen teen boys. No girls. The girls were smart enough or so diligent at homework that they remained in regular English classes.

As far as knowledge learned in high school that helped me in the real world, the stuff Mr. Hays taught us in remedial English and Algebra I & II are the things I found most useful in my adult life. Thanks Mr. Hays. Thanks Mr. Miller for the Algebra.

Gulls And Fishes

Dora drains the ocean
with her fountain pen
and a page thirsting for blue ink.

She thought to write an epic poem,
but her haiku contains so much more
with so much less.

Dora masters storms and strong tides,
but fails the calm
for her patron gulls and fishes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Illegible Scribbles

Poetry arrives at our door.
Road weary. Grimy.
Footsore from sixty-thousand steps that day.

Poetry plops down on my couch.
Turns on the TV.
Accepts a cup of ginger tea.

Poetry dresses down
the artwork on our walls.
Not enough typeface.

Poetry takes off its shoes.
Curls up on the couch, falls asleep,
and snores haikus.

Poetry puts on its walking shoes
at four-thirty in the morning.
On the way out,

it leaves the front door ajar.
Its signature footprints vanish
as the carpet pile rebounds.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul wonders why there is no Navajo Barbie.
He rolls and smokes shredded pages of Leaves of Grass.
He snacks on corned beef straight from the can.
He gulps Yoo-hoo chocolate drink with a haiku scrawled
in black Sharpie on the pealed-label glass.

Paul wonders why people who are larger than life, look life-sized?
He leans against a downspout waiting for the spider.
He pulls dandelions to give to his girlfriend.
He decides to write a series of his own haiku that girdle the earth
at his current latitude in New Mexico.

Paul adds Albuquerque to his key chain.
He performs sleight of hand tricks
with the coins set on eyes to pay the ferryman.
He writes carols for Easter, Arbor Day and All Halo’s Day.
He gives a damn, a good goddamn, as a tip to the cafe barista.

For three days, Paul pulls the oars in Charon’s boat as a temp job.
He directs thirty-two dogs to be the new church choir.
He totes a burlap sack of prayers to the mountain top.
Twice a week, he lends his legs to a paraplegic Afghan war vet
so he may run his own errands.

Paul’s stomach growls winter grizzly bears into wakefulness.
His hunger is the Gospel of Judas jotted on a daisy-cutter.
He locates a king standing next to a sword-less stone.
He stuffs his pockets with the poems and promises
found along the roadside on his latest walkabout.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney