Post Mortem

Father’s emptiness
spilled into every corner of the house.

His emptiness evicted his feelings.
Emptiness chilled him through and through.

Our house became the house of held breath.
Our house became the house of tangible absences.

In the yard we planted a memorial tree.
Its growth rings recorded a thousand confessed remorses.

Nothing I tell father goes past his ears.
His void does not carry sound.

Mother, broom in hand, swept emptiness
to the living room and under the carpet.

The house thought it protected the world
behind hidden doors.

After a year, the emptiness was a thin layer
of ash and dust still warm from the furnace.

After a year, I answered when my parents
called me by my brother’s name.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Her Laughter

Thirty-three hundred patty-cakes
bounce my sleep.

The murmurs of an absent child
creak the staircase until dawn.

The iron nails securing my spine
flake a glittering rust.

It is hard to repair the pump
that primes my eyes for tears,

while the ghost in my attic
constricts my throat with her laughter.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ghost

When I wake
from the gleam of your shine,
you sit at the end
of my bed and pull
the covers off my torso
so my skin
raises goose flesh
and you laugh.

Somehow the dog
does not wake through this exchange
and makes small woofs
through a dream.

I see you
look as if you are ten years old
when you did not reach
that age alive.

You see me
pull my body up
into a sitting position
to view you eye to eye.

I pull a pillow over
to cover exposed skin
and watch you rise crosslegged
in some levitation trick
so your eyes
are above mine,
though I question
if it is in judgement.

It is now thirty years gone
and I have done all the atonement
I could think of for being a parent living
when you are not.

You extend you legs to touch the bed
and walk forward to where I sit,
lean and kiss me on the cheek
knowing that will untie
the last tether I use to hold on to you.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sitting

My moss-laden tongue
confirms my muleheaded silence.

We share porch-swing condolences.
We share a pot of licorice tea.

Dora crafts mud figurines.
She rewrites formulaic principles.

She references Hawkeye in one-sided conversation.
We observe the exact instant the tide turns.

My careworn vocabulary lines up for roll call.
I love you survives a forlorn hope.

We view the next world’s separating membrane.
We swear mutual fealty.

Dora summons a sun-steeped red sky.
She performs Buffalo Nickel magic tricks.

We harvest heirloom stars for new wishes.
We store them in a sweetgrass basket.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

forlorn hope is the first wave of an assault into the breach of a fortified position and usually sustained extremely high casualties if not get wiped out. I applied poetic license to this meaning.

Disobedience

The last time my daughter visited
she’d been a ghost twenty-eight years.
She decided to stay the night in the guest room
after we talked past midnight
while Dora was on holiday with friends.
We made up stories of our camping trips
with tents and sleeping bags and stars.
It was tales of me taking her
to all my special wilderness places
where I best feel God and the oneness of being.
I read her every poem out of
When We Were Very Young
and Now We Are Six as if she were six.
Being a ghost she could appear that age.
The books were real. I can recite
only a handful of those poems still.
In unison we spoke aloud,
James James Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

For those of you who do not know, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are two books of children’s poems by A. A. Milne, who is famous as the author of Winnie the Pooh.

The last two lines of the poem are the first two lines of Milne’s poem Disobedience.

When I was very young, my sister and my mother read Milne’s poems to me and once I could read, I read the poems back to them. Disobedience was one of my favorites, especially the way my sister read it out loud. Being two of my favorite poetry books, I have copies on my bookshelves.

Ionization

It begins with a pencil drawing.
Four-B graphite on Arches paper.
Lines arc with imperfection, without a rule.
The white space between lines varies.
The white space absent a form—a white shadow.
A ghost. Her truancy interrupts each line
as I assemble syllables into words.

The white void is eager to receive.
A word printed in colored ink
with old wooden block type,
one inch Helvetica letters
from a dusty press set.

Love is my choice to fill that void,
that emptiness defined by arcs,
archangels—that negative space
that loses its shape
the closer my eye moves to the point
where my pencil halts
and lifts from the page.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

POSTSCRIPT

My first university degree was in Drawing & Printmaking. At my best, my drawing skill was near photographic in quality. I have done very little drawing since 1990. That was the year that my daughter was born and died on the same day. After that for many years my hand suffered as if hit by a hammer when a pencil was held in it for drawing. I could draw mechanically, but not with art. In 1993 in switched over to poetry. (I type my poems and dislike hand writing a poem. My creativity requires both hands.)

I feel that I write poetry like a painterly artist. I mean, I use a lot of my artistic eye and concepts in my poetry.

The loss of my daughter affects me still, but not so much as the years pass. So, a poem writes itself when the old pain makes itself present. The best advice I received was when the void, then pain shows up, fill it with love, a loving act that shows the world I still care.

Love & Light

Kenneth