Fifty Six Degrees

You cannot trust Bethany
to tell the truth
about her past trauma.

She has thirty years of practice
preventing these memories
from breaking through

to disrupt her day
filled with shopping, laundry
and three kids.

But the trauma ferments
in the dark of ceiled oaken casks
deep in the mind’s cellar.

With no vent set in the wood
to release the carbon dioxide
the barrel hoops strain

to keep the staves in place.
A sour smell occupies
Bethany’s nose.

That is what she says
in halts and stops
to our semicircle of faces.

And we know this too.
This aging darkness tucked away
under vaulted ceilings.

Cask after cask
awaiting the steward to tap
the wood

or for an explosion
that shatters the barrel staves
and twists and mangles the hoops.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mechanism

I restrain
the most difficult emotions
in a holding cell
until circumstances change
and I check
for bodily injuries
to determine
if drawn blood
changes equations.

Later I release
compressed feelings
and view them
like a newsreel
before allowing them
to engage
with my body.

Even then
I may overestimate
my capacity to handle
concepts and prejudices
desires in conflict with reality
and crumble to the ground
as my knees buckle
from the tremors.

While on the floor
I search for any word
to load into oration’s shotgun
so I might return fire
even if my words hit only
the ghost of my interactions.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wait For The Next Full Moon

It is Summer. Paul is cold.
His spine shivers. His ribcage rattles.

His shallow breath
suffocates his heart’s fire.

He will not share this memory
with you, or anyone,

because he has not yet shared it
with himself.

He was in his thirties
when the memory began to emerge.

Somehow genetics knows
only an adult can process certain experiences.

If only the release of this memory
did not have a time stamp,

forcing Paul to relive it again as though
he was four to seven years old.

How his logical mind fights the process
with adult suppression techniques

such as blended whiskeys, work
and over-the-counter medications.

His left arm trembles
as he reaches for the latest miracle cure

which is the booted foot
kicking the can farther down a long road.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Complex

Now you know
I was once
committed
for owning
one more
complication
than I
could juggle
without dropping
everything
while my dog
barked warning
that the church
pounded nails
out of scrap iron
ready to pierce
my flesh
as a refresher
parable
for the rows
and rows
of warehoused
worshippers.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clay Pigeons

The exit wound
always exceeds the diameter
of the bullet’s initial penetration.

So it is with harsh words.
Just enough velocity to enter
the brain and rattle around,

ricocheting off the bone walls,
shattering self-esteem
like so many clay pigeons.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dervish Circles

I washed
my shame
with color-safe
bleach
and dried it
set on permanent-
press.

I hung
my shame
in my closet,
adjacent to
three, white,
long-sleeve
shirts.

My shame
hung
on a cedar
hanger
so moths
would not
eat holes
out of it
and spoil
its sky-jump
color knit
for when
my mind
is a whirl
of dervish
circles.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Schizophrenic Dopey

On a snow white morning,
I woke up and realized,
once and for all time,
that I was Grumpy!

This truth was quickly confirmed
when I discovered
the decapitated bodies
of six metaphysical midgets
strewn about my one-room house,
their floppy hats covered
rigor mortise erections,
and all their hi-ho smiles
were wiped from their contorted faces—

The raven-haired beauty
slept in someone else’s bed,
dreaming she had escaped
the poison apple.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ornaments

Because the statues
were so much plastic kitsch,
I found it difficult
to take the doctors seriously.

I took their
institutional questions as obscene
while sitting on frayed lawn chairs
on freshly cut grass.

We sat in a half circle
with the psych doctor opposite us,
wondering if our similar defects
make us kin or family.

I had not yet learned
your names or your ages
but the doctor felt at ease
telling everyone our middle names.

The doctor told us we looked beautiful.
Me with my white goatee.
Gale with the bandage around
a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her thigh.

Marla’s face still droopy
after the forced calm of a Thorazine night.
Carlos full of machismo in his wheelchair
knowing diabetes eats his remaining leg.

The doctor asked us to speak our truths
as if her pen was a magic wand
to move the stone over the cave entrance
to allow the Christ to rise.

We talked around metastasized memories
and treatment theories from previous occasions
spent with hospital bands around wrists
and rotations of others in the circle.

We nervously told pornographic jokes.
One of which keyed a lock in Gale’s mental closet
and the memory delivered a first round, one punch
knock out that ended the session.

For participation we were awarded
blue bubble gum cigars,
which lead to Groucho imitations
from the oldest of us.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Turn About

Paul fell into a dark place.
He immediately stopped digging
even though he walked city streets.
He guessed he fell into a manhole.
He worried it was a black hole.

Paul chose to stand silent.
Not a peep came out of him.
After an undefined measure of time
he looked up to determine
if a cap of sky was above him.

There was light above him.
Way far above him.
He could not tell if the light
was sky blue, cloud white
or an inspiring memory.

Paul thought about his falling.
It was not a tail spin.
There was no plunging downward.
There was the abrupt sadness
like a dove hitting a window.

He pulled out his smart phone
and opened his calendar.
A black dot marked this day.
No information followed the dot.
No time frame. It repeated yearly.

Paul recognized this darkness
as the black of a black & white memory.
He tipped his cap to the sadness.
The hurt that formed the sadness receded.
The cap of sky broadened, came closer.

The darkness fell away from Paul.
Turn about was fair play.
Paul acknowledged life does not play fair.
Spotting a nearby bench, he sat.
The bus stop bench accepted his weight.

He examined his daughter’s bright life.
He looked at a black and white memory photo album.
He touched the horror of the day she died.
A bus pulled up to the stop.
Paul continued his walk in the city.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Momentary

The monsters that roam your unconscious
were once real in the guise of friends or family.

You may have an anxiety closet
or fear the underside of your bed,

but that is the mind’s manifestation
of buried images from silent era films.

Silence from before your vocabulary developed
or grew large enough to express something insidious

like the misplaced hand that steals the spine
or a common action diverted into the perverse.

Your fluttering eyelids over our coffee cup conversation
confirms emotional bruises and illicit fingerprints.

The secrets you keep are secret only in detail.
Violence without definition, without time stamp or witness.

As your body twists muscles in a squirm
your secrets wring an old blackened torment outward.

I recognize your avoidance techniques.
I realize your emotional heart stopped and blood turned cold.

Though it is plain your ears are not deaf,
my It’s over and Let it go fail to vibrate the ear drum,

to penetrate deep to the living memory
that retains the trespass as clear and present danger.

A moment of relief crosses your eyes
as we switch our talk to the playoffs

and other subjects that leave tears
far from the corners of your eyes.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney