Wrapped in rags
Paul survives a late freeze.

He washes in fountain water.
Air dries.

He spends half the day
measuring sunlight

and the heat it leaves behind
in body and stone.

Paul knows everything breaks.
He mends his brokenness.

He knows every break opens him
to reveal what is inside.

But only if he looks deeply
without lying to himself.

He wonders if he is chaff
being winnowed out of society.

Society’s kernels are unaware
he is about to grind them into flour.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Alphabet soup is served.
A long line files past the stainless steel pot with ladle.

Mostly misfit military men and women
secret stomach twisting ghosts in their guts.

Fatigues in various shades of faded
sit at tables butted end to end.

During the blessing
each soup bowl spells out a prayer.

Vegetable broth vapors rise
to cloud faces and steam glasses.

Some attendants
eat with a fork one letter at a time.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


In a wheelchair
at a rural intersection
with the only traffic light for miles
sits a battered Teddy Bear
propping up a cardboard sign:
Homeless War Vet.

Under the shade of trees
a man with prosthetic legs
appears to snooze
through the awfulness
after twenty-eight straight days
without a bed or shower.

The sycamore trees,
old as the Civil War,
mark a property boundary
in the county land records
that go back
to nineteen-eighteen
when his great grandfather
purchased the farm
from the bank
after its owners,
with no successors,
died of the influenza.

With no traffic
at the red light
children bound
out of a solitary car
with less than
one dollar in change
for the Teddy Bear.
But that does not
fill his vest pocket
or the income gap
during the pandemic.

So history repeats itself.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shelter Receives No One After Five

We stood outside
the First Church of Christ.

It was one of six by that name
in the city.

We wanted sanctuary.
Our pandemic eviction was complete.

No one was home in the church
after dark—tale end of twilight, really.

Our boys and girls
played ring around the rosary—

a game they just made up
while clicking their tongues.

One of the boys argued this building
was the house of God

and God should let us in
to stay dry from the approaching storm.

One of our girls argued
God dwells in Heaven with the angels

and Heaven is in outer space.
She could not name the nearest star.

When the rain started,
one of our girls suggested

Fairies should kidnap all the children
away from us.

The youngest boy started crying.
He suffers from night terrors

and the night closed in
all around him, claws exposed.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Longing Red Lights

The homeless populate our street corners during the day.
The city councilors’ cosmetic solutions fail.
The gated communities wall their fears inside.
The soup kitchen volunteers fortify food with bible verses.
The hospital emergency rooms tend the frost bite of apathy.

There is an art to cardboard sign construction and literature
that should be studied, organized, categorized
and open to the public in university galleries.

No matter the weather, Robin disrobes
and runs one lap around the banking district.

He no longer begs or steals, but performs slam poetry,
though most people think he pontificates incoherently
and place a bill or two in the passed mitre
thus maintain their year-long absence
from the confessional.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


The sight of homeless people panhandling at stoplights is common in Albuquerque. Often they hold their cardboard signs under metal street signs that tell them where to get help with a city department phone number to contact. I figure if you are homeless, you are phone-less as well.

It is rare that I give money to the homeless directly. I give my money to the foodbank instead that claims they have the ability to stretch my dollars to seven times the grocery store value of those same dollars. It is not a lack of compassion, but my attempt to get the biggest value for my donated money.

Regularly the city comes and removes all the makeshift tents between the dog park and highway. They city scoops every thing into a dump truck and cart it away as trash. Imagine if everything you owned, including shelter, was just scooped up and dumped.

It seems too me that the high paid CEOs should cut their pay in half, so more folks can be employed by the CEOs’ companies. I think it would be good if we judged CEOs by how many people they employ combined with profit margin. Example: If a CEO’s company is profitable only because he/she laid off 10,000 workers, social pressure should snap the CEO’s spinelessness and incompetence.

The best way I know to help the homeless, is to get them a home and a phone. It is impossible to get a job without an address or a contact number. So the government (greater community) has to step in and supply those essentials. I would see it as my tax dollars being well spent.

I am realizing I could go on for several pages on this topic, but I wish to get my morning moving to the great outdoors, so I stop this postscript.

Love & Light