I Write This At Our Old Table

Your appearance
in ghostly form
explains your disappearance
to a small degree.

I preferred it
when you lived and breathed
but accept seeing you
at your old haunts.

In some of those places
your voice hides in corners
and I hear them
as a whisper even when in song.

You ask about your life.
I am reluctant to explain it
since I believe
you should be letting go

for release into the next world
and what it holds
but it could be you have amends
to make after death’s epiphanies.

Not amends but forgiveness.
Not them forgiving you.
But you forgiving them
in their presence and to their faces.

This is so bitterness and pain
fail to lock you to these familiar places
even though I remember them
as places of laughter.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul reaches across
the universe
and nudges her

to draw her eyes
through the night’s
dark waves.

This short visitation
provides the chance
to say goodbye.

Paul returns
to blood and bone
to the fruitless sin

of being alive
beyond his daughter’s
count of days.

copyright © 2021 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

In A Way That Will Change Him

At Rockford University,
in an upstairs lounge,
a poetry reading takes place.

The poet ignores the itch
upon the bridge of his nose
and forces his right hand down.

His words echo off the walls.
They jump on the couch with orange cushions.
They rock the lampshades.

There are no bodies to absorb
the report of his strident voice.
No ears to take in his pastoral descriptions.

This is not practice.
This is not a man in love with his own voice.
You cannot see his poems are a tool for letting go.

How each word tethers a time and event
and releases little pieces of the trenches
outside of Petersburg into the air.

But it is his descriptions of Appomattox
with its surrounding farm fields on rolling hills,
its oak and hickory stands

that he focuses on in his search for peace.
An inner peace where the wars that divide him
come to a gracious and generous close.

As his eyes move as if the room were full,
he catches sight of several mourning doves,
landing on an oak branch outside the window.

He takes this as a sign
and lets his voice dwindle and settle
onto the polished floorboards.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clean Away

A wake scheduled
for four-thirty in the morning
revels the scrape and rub
of knees and elbows
and the first lightning
of an approaching monsoon,
whose thunderclap
must be imagined
as six syllables
impacting the breastbone.

The gathered
form an imperfect circle
around a long time friend
who conjured the notion
that his ashes
be mixed
into the sandy ground
at first light.

The approaching storm
whips up such a violence
as we stir him
into the arroyo’s bank,
knowing the coming
flash flood
will strip him clean away.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


Your footsteps
jar the seismograph pen.

You carry the weight
of your friends’ deaths.

The faerie gate is near.
So is the ferryman with his bony hand.

Your steps cause no real damage
if you let go soon.

You discover
the weight is your pulling down

what would rise toward the heavens
left to its own accord.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney