You Tried Being Nothing

A minefield replaced the lawn again.
I told the kids not to play dead.

You told me to learn snow.
I salted your lips before drinking a kiss.

The lawn leaped into a pile of pine needles.
The kids cleaved the wind running.

You told me to blanket the yellow sailboats.
I printed your eyes shut with ellipses.

The lawn knelt in prayer reciting psalms.
The kids recited a failed fable left out of the final draft.

You told me to dance standing still.
I built a shelter to protect us from the sun not the night.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wing Flap of a Glass Butterfly

Instead of firing his AR-fifteen seventy-two times
the gunman cracked the school like an egg.

The brick shell fragmented leaving gaps
with views of the cornfield for the students inside.

Somehow the gunman placed on the ground
the only patch of snow available in Iowa that July.

The gunman held off the arriving police
until all the children could escape the tyranny of syntax

the mnemonic repetition of times tables
and a gym class that refused double dutch jump ropes.

Crows flew into multiple houses and gathered up
all the dropped nail clippings and shed hair.

Down the road in an abandoned barn flaking red paint
Billy kissed Jenny for the first time.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bright Angel

It was at the edge
of the Grand Canyon
where Paul and Lori first kissed.

She said it was something
about seeing time
layered in the canyon walls.

He said it was the way
her scarf draped
her coat’s shoulders.

The kiss stretched out
over the canyon edge
like a bird in flight.

It stayed a-wing
as the sun dropped
below the horizon

and a few stars emerged
as if to announce
the changing sky.

As the kiss ended
the wind rushed to fill
the space between them

and flicked the ends
of Lori’s scarf
along with her long hair.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


The trick is
to hold out your hand
and convince
a cluster
of carbon-dioxide
to dance
upon your palm
which will
produce a white light
while you stand
perfectly still—
and it will last
as long as you
keep the molecules

So do this trick
in the nude
and exhale
deep breaths
onto your palm
as if you blow
a kiss
across the room.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Jack Palance

You remind me
I was sixteen once.
Tall enough I was mistaken for a man.
Not old enough to grow a mustache shadow.

Everyday I ventured out into the world.
The world barely noticed me.
I climbed mountains.
I climbed stairs in my five story high school.

We read Steven Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage.
I took it as an instruction manual.
It taught me to accept my trepidations.
And that I would conquer my nerves with experience.

Being about war it taught little about Kindness.
It taught me little about geography as well.
Was it important to learn the location of Beijing?
I bet clocks tick there at the same speed as here.

My first date that ended with a kiss happened at eighteen.
So I cannot help you with dating at sixteen.
Your slender awkwardness has its own charm.
Breathing normally is important.

An old aftershave commercial taught me Confidence is Sexy.
Go from nervous to confident by experiencing dating.
I think that was Jack Palance in the commercial.
You were born the day he died.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


What a good night.
Stars blurry through a frosted window.
Me with you under the blankets.
I hear you whisper.
How will we remain in love
without hard times binding us?

Habit. I whisper into your hair.
Plus, I love you beyond the end of time.

You squeeze me. Your face shifts
from my chest to my shoulder.
Your kiss presses upon my cheek.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney