Promise

Paul does not look to where he came from.
It has disappeared into the past.
The past is but a memory.
And memories change with each visitation.

He watches the news at night
only to have his brain cavity fill with blood
and the lines of victims queued
to tell their survivor stories.

Paul sees pupils sitting in a classroom.
They are present to improve their English—
to initiate the English language on their tongues
and struggle with unfamiliar syllables.

All those many old languages fall into the past
except at home with old country parents
who refuse to change though they initiated the change
approaching the promise of a flag and voice in government.

Paul sees on their skin the violence of the old country.
Scars that report blood once spilled into familial eyes.
Hands that must unlearn a culture departed.
Customs that change slightly with each visitation.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Tolerance

Lori carried a dust buster
as if it was a six-shooter in a holster.

Whenever she was around rude people
she quick-drew the dust buster

and sucked their ill tempered words
out of the air.

This earned Lori baleful gazes
from those rude people

who wanted their words to land
a knockout punch.

Lori had no trouble with this consequence
but wished to learn

how to empty her dust buster
so it was not a lumbering B-52

dropping its payload
in her trash bin with the city logo.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Inventory

Paul claimed
a past life memory
of being a migrant worker
building the city
and tower of Babel.
He remembered
the frustration
of trying to organize
the first labor union.
It was right about the time
the first alphabet
came into existence
to preserve
the purity of language
now that many tongues
mixed together
on a daily basis.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sweep

Poetry shapes words into daggers
to penetrate the listener.

To say the unsayable
form the wrong words into a mine detector

then glide it over
the vocabulary hidden under your skin

until the beeps quicken
then carefully dig and defuse the proper word.

So much of the poetry I hear at open mic
is the violent loss of virginity before puberty

and the cascading damage
shame perpetrates upon the victim.

Unabashedly revealing that truth
creates beauty from deformity.

Bend a spoon with poetry.
There is no spoon.

Bend yourself with poetry
into the shape of the you to come.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mi Tarea de Vocabulario

A smokey twist
rises from a cigarette
above the bent nubs
of four others
in an ashtray.

My Spanish tutor
practices card tricks
in an empty room
but fails to conjure
the three of clubs
from thin air
thickened with smoke.

My arrival
for my lesson
shoves her cards
deep into a red
woolen pocket
as my halting words
relay I left
my vocabulary
homework
in a parking lot
truck cab
that is by now
eighteen-wheeling it
west on I-40.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clay Pigeons

The exit wound
always exceeds the diameter
of the bullet’s initial penetration.

So it is with harsh words.
Just enough velocity to enter
the brain and rattle around,

ricocheting off the bone walls,
shattering self-esteem
like so many clay pigeons.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney