When Paul said he was hungry
he meant for Lori’s hands
kneading into his flesh
so the bedsheets
would bandage loneliness
while the soft night soothed
all the consonants and vowels
escaping his exaltation.

He wished it to end with an amen
that spread across the sheets
like the June breeze
through the open windows
and yet be a hullo
that inspired a deeper reacquaintance
and lead to honest conversation.

It would be a vaccine
that protected them from the emptiness
of the black space between moon and stars.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Start of Negotiation

I meant to speak
better and more honest words
to the woman I loved.

She saw through my efforts
to not live alone for the rest of my life
and restlessly shifted in her chair

until she asked
what was in my plan for her
and her future.

That sparked my static desperation
to flare up into full blown fire
so my next honest words

were blackened with bad mood
that dripped like a syrupy pancake
held between two fingers.

She wordlessly sat
waiting for deciding
to take place inside my brain

and offer up a verbal blue print
that could be more of a sketch
with hand printed dimensions.

After drawing a blank on a white piece of paper
she took pen to page
and added a bright blue bullet point list.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Turning Back

Lori grabbed Paul’s arm.
She did not pull him in any direction.

Her hold reminded him
to stop at the edge of any abyss.

Lori gently held him
knowing he enjoyed transforming into a dolphin.

Not all tides were for swimming.
Not all seas played by the same rules.

After a long while, Paul
inched closer to Lori until breath touched cheek.

They embraced and kissed.
Time passed gently.

They formed a new home
safe from squalls.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


I wake in my hotel
hearing the absence of your footsteps.

The hall corridor is filled with no one.
The ice maker five doors down is silent.

Right now you must be in the kitchen
making espresso and frothed milk.

You will read the news on a tablet
and slowly eat three squares of chocolate.

Later you will make a real breakfast.
Oatmeal with berries and nuts on the surface.

I write this memory on a napkin
as the sea rolls to the shore repeatedly.

The music of the sunrise
breaks the ocean line and the far away squalls.

The salt in your desert floor
revives this memory for you as you look east.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Beggared Promise

I sat in the middle of my marriage.
She orbited me touching compass points.

Our house was large enough
for us to not see each other all the time.

The dogs liked the middle where I sat
when thunder rolled through the valley.

Otherwise the dogs were near her
especially when she worked the garden.

We practiced tender temperaments
like some people practice yoga.

We liked best
when there was nothing between us.

But I know you know
such states do not last forever.

The map of our marriage
marked where there may be dragons.

That is what happens when the map
is the flat page of our daughter’s death certificate.

The tenderness we practiced served us well
negotiating divorce.

That was a long time ago.
A shimmering halo of released doves.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


The tourniquet of words
did not stop the bleeding.

We were together once.
One soul, we thought in our youthful foolishness.

We stood in the land that connects everything—
separate, alone, curled around a mutual pain.

Our brief humanity stunted by fear
created an incandescent light.

We used to kneel together and spoke prayers
unaware that listening was prayer.

We got stuck a second time
hearts blinking, not beating—

the bio-chemical love, hormone surge
bodies dumb, automated by nature.

You did not leave me nor I you.
We left each other under mutual consent.

There are no reparations for this liberating torment—
this intentional vow breaking.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

On the Surface of What is Real

Paul sorts through the Scrabble tiles
for a willful word
that will brook no descent.

Lori tires of waiting for the message
and moves to the kitchen
to finish the dishes.

Pushing them apart
was never Paul’s intent
so he alters his mouth

to launch an apology
off his tongue
toward Lori’s ears.

Not looking for words
her head is turned
at the wrong angle.

Some utterances
fail to part the curtain of hair
covering her ears.

So the apology becomes a malady
of television watched alone
on the love seat.

Paul starts over
after an uncomfortable hour
with an old standard

that comes from some place real
with an I love you
that pierces Lori’s mood

and finds that beautiful place
where conversation begins
and troubled waters smooth.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Gratitude and Relief

Before you ….
I do not like to think about that time.

The lack of touch.
Spirit withdrawing into a protective shell.

It was a mix of intentional
and unintentional.

Frugal courage.
The emotional safety of a small life.

The joy of no expectations but my own.
Self-set boundaries.

But the death of sharing took a toll.
That was my only self-inflicted wound.

The other scars
explain why I lived this way for so long.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Trying to rewind his life
to last Thursday to a time ten minutes before
he said something stupid to Lori
which got her mad at him,
Paul walked backwards through the neighborhood.

The neighborhood sidewalks
were old and uneven.
His first stumble and fall
took place in front of their cafe—
the place where they first met.

He banged his head on the concrete.
Several bystanders helped him up
and gave him walking suggestions.
The best one was if he insists on walking backward
not to have his hands in his pockets.

Paul walked backward into Sarti’s Bar
which was full of happy hour people
busy with happy hour drinking.
He bumped into a bus-woman clearing tables
and sent empties spinning across the floor.

The merriment of the bar flowed around him
like he was a stone moving through a stationary stream.
The metaphor was backward enough to tickle his fancy.
His laughter joined the merriment of the joint.
He took a barstool and ordered a pint.

With his back to the silent TV he cheered
when others cheered the Broncos football play.
Neil Young’s Heart of Gold played on the old jukebox.
Lori walked forward into Sarti’s.
Because he was not facing the television Paul saw her arrive.

Lori walked forward to the bar next to him
squeezed between two occupied barstools
and ordered a pint. He apologized.
She accepted the apology and commented
that Mary called her to get down here when he entered backwards.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney