Greener Grasses

In my month of tending family plots
in the village cemetery
I noticed not one member of my family
rested for eternity within this gated community.

My tendency to open whiskey bottles
folks left for the dead
went unnoticed
as acorns fell from stately oaks.

I set shot glasses into the sod
and filled the clear glass to the white line
only to learn my efforts turned
a stray dog into a lush.

I wondered if the little dolls
leaned against gravestones
felt abandoned by the survivors
or were happy to be by their loved one?

Once they wilted, I removed all the flowers
that failed to fill open wounds
of the huddled bereaved
who muttered words they meant to say in life.

Some days whispers licked my ears
and I thought the dead a bit forward
with all their advice on how to outlast
bottles and jukebox dancing to last call.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Breakfast Shortly After Midnight

You are about quiet.
The long walk.
Working the garden.

You neither win nor lose.
You live breath to breath.
In the not too long ago.
And the not quite yet.

You crafted peace
like a walnut rocking chair
sanded stained
and shellacked.

You savor your gray hair
like the gray rainclouds
and what the loss of each
from the wind means.

Behind it all is a song.
Your song.
Slow motion sips
from a never empty cup.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Hard to find space
at the edge
of the stuffed
animal menagerie
that shields the bed
from intruders
like myself.

Eros is but a dream
held against
the ceiling
where stars
without constellations
glow when the lights
turn out.

The window
has a view
of stacked
white bee hives—
the knowledge
sweet things
come from effort.

I go away
to bring home
a warm baguette
for the butter
on a dish
on the dining table
so we may
break bread.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Through the fourteen stations of the cross
Paul said nothing while groping around
for what was holy about this montage.

The only remaining voice in his head said
You are closer to God than his heart breaking.
I love you

The elongation of late afternoon light
colored the garden walkway
with golden hues.

He knew he should be going—
away from other people’s holy space
leaving a ripple of air behind him.

There were so many spirits lingering here
unaware Charon’s pier was not
at the entry to these stations.

The weary sighs of the waiting
tore at him like he was a blessed loaf of bread
on a pedestrian altar.

He sensed this was not a typical day.
The voice behind and below his right ear said
Whistle a happy tune.

As he whistled bird calls he thought
how Pied Piper of Hamelin
to lead the dead away from the churchyard.

They followed him to the stonewall
at the edge of an orchard outside of town.
They rushed over the river of the setting sun’s rays.

Heading home Paul passed the churchyard
and in the dusk saw how much brighter
the stain glass parables shown illuminated from the inside.

As he entered his warm home
he knew he did not understand his madness
or ill-defined beliefs.

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


Lori waited at the kitchen table.
Steam rose from her oatmeal.
Her cat brushed up against her leg.
Then the other leg.

She waited for a man before eating.
He was the twentieth man in twenty-five days.
He knew not of this count.

What started as the loose excitement of revenge
tightened as a noose when the bottom fell out.

Mouths and thighs did not equal paradise.

The mirror was not Lori’s friend this morning.

He arrived at the table with sleep in his eyes.
And a reddish smear on his cheek.
He looked down and grasped the empty coffee cup.

This tomorrow did not exist last night.

The morning light exposed their age more accurately—
the accumulated wreckage of time.
Lori was especially aware of his crows feet
as if crows were already picking at something dead.

He sat eyes down, cup to face but not drinking.
Lori dug a spoon past the thin glaze of syrup
and into her oatmeal.

It was awkward only in the way silence is awkward.

He set the empty cup down and got up.
He shut the front door behind him
and navigated the prickly pear straight to his car.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Awakened By Weeping Icicles

Awakened by weeping icicles
Lori felt the unevenness
of her holy body.

She read cover to cover
the Bible, Torah and Quran
in search of her name

but found it untouched
by their many verses
and living parables.

She chose not to see
this absence
as a barricade.

Unblocked by script and tradition
she examined
her every longing.

Especially rhythms
edible or audible
or snowy when the pipes froze.

Kiss me.
She thought of god
bending down from heaven

to place lips
to her forehead
to sooth unnamed sadness.

Kiss me.
She thought of the man
down the street

with good manners
who harvested winds for melodies
pushed through his clarinet.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Nothing is more tragic
than soundless sex.

An unspoken devotion
to an unseen pain

curtails our acquaintance
unlike sure hands

on hips and sweat
with eyes locked.

Or a crooked kiss
that applies no tenderness

and feels rather like Judas
in Gethsemane.

Somewhere inside
there is a hiding place

with a frayed rope ladder
pulled to the floor.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Name on the Best Seller List

Paul thought back to his first time making love.
It was in a sleeping bag while camping.

Two sleeping bags zipped together.
The romance of the stars above.

He remembered how relaxed they were in the afterglow.
How they made up new constellations.

The backstories for those star groupings.
How a sliver of moon pierced the sky.

He hated that the romance did not last long.
The two of them. Together.

Though they were good together.
Kind. Considerate. Tender.

Their goals were in different directions.
Hers to the flat city. His to the mountainous wilderness.

Neither of them wanted to give up their dreams.
Or for the other to give up their dream.

So they parted well. With good wishes.
But they lost touch in less than a year.

Paul thought about her brown eyes.
Her straight black hair. Her soft hand in his.

He remembered that he was more afraid than she.
It was his first time. But not hers.

He remembered she was so plainly human.
Not much pretend about her.

Like the mountain forests he loved to wander.
Like the revealing books she wrote.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


The pre-dawn dark
enclosed the house.
The first light I turned on
intruded and deepened
the surrounding darkness.
There was not enough moon
for illumination
and I did not think
to turn on the blue flame first
then fill the kettle.

Out the window
the absence of stars
marked the mountains line.
There. That bend.
That indentation
which will be white soon
is where you are.
In the litter of leaves
and pine needles
that now cover
our thoughts of you
where we spread
your ashes.

And not where you are.
You believed you rejoined the whole.
God is the word we use
to define the whole.
Our solar system equivalent
to a single atom
of something infinitely larger.
Atoms trading places.
Always in motion.
Your water, by fire, evaporated
into the air then clouds.
Your ash when the west wind kicks up
moves your carbon toward Kansas.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney