Beneath Our Feet

No one I know
has ever given a grave
as a Christmas present.

I assume you wear scrubs
and turned your car’s engine off
before the hospital.

I invented this coring machine
that extracts holes
for placing the dead standing up.

I imagine you singing
in the surgical theater
hands moving like a pianist.

Property has become so expensive
there are no new cemeteries
and the old ones are three deep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Secret Santa

Paul received the present
pleasantly enough
until he unwrapped it
and found a bullet
with “for your brain”
written on it.

Happily it arrived
without an implementation device
such as a revolver
by makers
like Colt, Remington
or Smith & Wesson.

But who knew
what Paul would find
under the tree
Christmas morning—
or afternoon
if he slept late
from too much nog
and wassail
on Christmas Eve.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Public Attention

I would not recognize anyone
whose lynching was preserved
in picture postcards.

I might spot a familiar face
in the raucous crowd.

I do hear mothers wailing
through a history
of dead sons.

We do not know the history
of disappeared women.

No one ever photographed rape
like lynching, then published it
for sale at local gas stations.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Apart from Myself

The five of us stood together
in front of our house
and watched the rain runoff
rise out of the gutter
and over the yard.

Those few out driving in this deluge
see me drenched with shadowy bodyguards
that no enemy is willing to approach—
not even the lightning
as the thunder reverberates over the block.

I am not a young man anymore
according to tradition and census
but this corralling empty trash bins
swept away from their homes
by the runoff tickles my fancy.

On the depressed playground
of the corner elementary school
a pool forms at least three feet deep
as someone young in a yellow slicker
hangs upside down on the jungle gym.

The four other aspects of myself
soaked head to toe
washed free of swagger
go back inside while I fish
a Barbie doll out of the gutter’s current.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Empty Squares

Delphi stopped playing
with the lives of people who sought her advice.

She remembered moving stick figures
around a national game table.

The stick figures always stood straight—
never bent by earthly concerns.

She made them so they would not
display weakness

while in pursuit of what they thought
they wanted.

Fake it until you make it
or something similar in Agamemnon’s Greek.

She knew the futility of aspiration
without self-knowledge.

She knew no chess piece asked to be moved
from its rank or file.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Eyes Lowered from the Sun

Paul opens up at night.
Closes in day.

He thinks his lies are white.
They are darkening shades of gray.

Only after sex does he reveal himself.
It is when he is willing to study his nature.

He thinks his fake and stoic facade
is enough for the world.

He slavishly believes he is better than he is.
He is blind to his privilege.

Paul does say please and thank you—
it expedites future transactions.

He judges his appearance as good
only on the darkest night.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Blown Up

Paul pressed his eye
to the barrel
of a microscope
and sought a trigger
to first-person-shooter kill
viruses in his body.

Another day
he placed a fibrous page
of the bible
under the same scrutiny
in his search for god
through the not-so-black
hole of a period
at the end of a psalm.

When he examined
his finger
and through the skin
saw red blood cells
moving like
red coats toward Lexington
he had to decide
whether to remain loyal
to King George
or assemble at Concord.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Meeting Engagement

Lori never knew me.
I made her up for poems.
For men to fight over like the Greek Helen.

Sometimes in the dark of night
she walks around
seeking a bridge over the canyon.

Lori does not understand
the rift in her earth
or that it mirrors the Taos gorge.

To date no men have fought over her.
Though, the ones she dates
fight with her regularly.

It has something to do with her
calling them cowards
for not appreciating her independence.

Lori sits at the edge of the rift
and looks down nine hundred feet
to the silvery strand of river.

Instead of a thousand ships launched
she would prefer a thousand engineers
building her that bridge.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lack of Consent

A man trades two slaves for a horse.
I do not have to tell you about his Mississippi accent.

I do need to relate to you that he asked not one question
about how the receiver of the two slaves
would treat them

while the man with the horse sought assurances
the horse would be treated well.

We never think of a horse or a cow as a slave.
Or whether our treatment of them
will affect our entry into the kingdom of heaven.

The owners who argued slaves were livestock property
never stood trial for the crime of bestiality
no matter the numbers of mulatto children underfoot.

Or were arrested and tried for rape
for those owners who argued slaves were merely lesser people.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Flying Star 15 Aug 22

Old men type texts on their smart phones
with one finger and no emojis.

A middle aged woman slices her eggs
with knife and fork.

All but one of the laptops are Macs.
Most of the coffee is diluted with cream and sugar.

From the Quick Fix station
Dean gets a scoop of ice cream in a coffee cup.

Twelve indoor tables are empty—three full.
Twelve outdoor tables are full—three empty.

For the fifth time in ten minutes a person
pushes on a glass door that does not open.

Two young women use the cafe as their office—
write code on screens that look similar to 1980s DOS.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney