Old Photographs

Paul took a course on serenity
taught by the city’s last Holocaust survivor.

It had something to do with ironing
the wrinkles out of nightmares.

Sometimes the teacher was so serene
she became translucent.

Looking through her all Paul could see
was the green color of the blackboard

and calm and quiet
printed with yellow chalk.

Paul was better at practicing quiet.
Residual fears suffocated his words.

The final exam was to turn
a living color nightmare

into burnished sepia tones
then filing it in the archival past.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Long Term Strain of Abuse

Lori does not know her heart
wishes to be called by a different name.

Her heart is at the point of rebellion.

Lori passes off the irregular beats as stress
since the world is a difficult place.

Her heart begins to distrust her body.

It sees plots and conspiracies
in every grain of sugar and gram of carbohydrates.

They both call for more time in the sun.

A beach with sand squishing between toes
and vitamins produced as ultra white skin browns or reddens.

That brings up the current disagreement: sunscreen.

Lori appreciates that if her heart implements full scale rebellion
large swaths of memory will vanish.

She is pleased at the idea of relearning the world.

Especially simple things like laughter
and the smell of pine bark when she presses her face into it.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fractured Moon

Decades of rewriting memories
produces a fictional clarity
on childhood trauma
placed in the autobiography.

It all comes back
while endlessly talking
to no one in particular
at the fairgrounds.

The devil was never in the details.
The devil was in the inappropriate touch
and threat-enforced silence
of those who did not care about transgression.

Each neighborhood firework that spikes the sky
or gunshot that punctuates the night
reinvigorates the old shock
and trauma skitters memory bank to nerve endings.

It is not the spangled lights
but the explosive’s radiating displacement wave
that rattles the spine up to the skull
pushing a soul out the top.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Remote Thought

Memory stampeded the front range
but did not bull over the Sandia mountains into Albuquerque.

All those hooves milled about head stones
in search of an argument thrust into the present by the past.

The wounds we once inflicted upon each other
never had their stitches removed.

That mending was one long thread
that unintentionally held us together over fourteen hundred miles.

This morning in the reservoir run dry
you found the drowned math needed for our accounting.

Our greener grasses are east of the Sandia mountains
under ambling hooves stirring up dust clouds

as Memory works its way up the front range
toward the Pecos River headwaters.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Portraiture

My ability to determine
which secrets to keep
and which to expose
has something
to do with an oval
wooden frame
on the wall
that presents
cut locks of hair
from my ancestors.

Each lock is curled
like a nautilus spiral
above calligraphy script
that names the donor
and I hold the knowledge
that each lock
was taken from the head
as it rested in its casket
before public viewing
as was their custom.

In a box I possess
unmarked sepia photos
that are yellowed
at the card-stock edges
and I play a game
where I try to match
photo to name
by their hair.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Recognition

Paul’s memory fell out
leaving a hollow space
for squirrels to nest in
like a tree trunk.

Each night he was reintroduced
to the Milky Way.

Each day the sunrise
surprised him.

When he looked at me
I saw his mind race and whirl
through sleeping squirrels
trying to find and form my name.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Voice I No Longer Remember

Practice spirit speech.
Wander through night doors.

Salt food with sweat.
Rise at first light.

Place a hand on a friend’s shoulder.
Walk invisibly through forests.

Inhale wet leaf aroma.
Tread paths with no destination.

Accept advice from songbirds.
Give foolishness a home.

Define success for yourself.
Overwrite old memories.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Judgement

Sin arrived as a ripple of change
emanating from a story of loss.

Memory made it original
and entirely of self.

Creator made it not at all
but made the change possible.

A spell written in sand
removed by the lapping tide.

A spell as in time.
A time lived consciously.

A beautiful disconnection.
Not disappearance.

But not loss either.
Not sin.

A scattering of reflections
like sunlight scattered off cut crystal.

Off descending water droplets
that form rainbows.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Gnostics Have These Answers

Why do second-hands sweep?
Time is no cleaner for all their effort.

In which case I am glad they do not sweep up memory
so I recognize my beloved when I see her.

The night fills with dark.
But it is the absence of light that makes it so.

Not that the light is absent.
It is blocked by the earth’s rotation.

Like when my beloved turns her face from mine
and I cannot see her smile.

When I am at a loss for words
I have plenty of words at hand ready for use.

But all those words seem to be
the wrong thing to say under the circumstance.

Why are my words at hand?
It is not like I ramrod them in my mouth

like the barrel of a muzzleloading musket
before firing away.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Retention

I remember my brother’s coffin
before it was lowered into the ground.

He was cremated.
His ashes placed under a maple sapling we planted.

Someone took scissors to my memory.
They collaged over one with another.

Maybe this dual remembrance is a casualty
of too many concussions.

I suffered three big ones over the years.
Maybe those residual blows dig holes in my brain.

Maybe grief of a lost loved one
digs a hole in the brain as well as the ground.

I feel your fingers filling the holes
like my brain is a bowling ball.

No. That was water filling the hole
with seasonal freeze and thaw cycles.

It is a long time extracting tears
from eyes told Big boys don’t cry.

I was not big at the time of my brother’s death.
But I was told that axiom anyhow.

Maybe those tears are the waters
that filled the brain holes.

Maybe my memories were printed
with water soluble ink

and bled into other memories
which explains my eating potato salad

at my brother’s grave side
in the shade of a maple grown tall.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney