In Chicago The Underground Is Elevated

Meet me
at the Museum of Science
and Industry.

Leisurely we amble
through the exhibits
until we reach

the mathematical rooms
my father wired
as an electrician

working his way
through university
after losing his scholarship.

Upon completing the tour
of the U-five-o-five submarine
we stroll

around the east lagoon
to the harbor
and the fifty-ninth street beach

for a hot-dog lunch
that only a true Chicagoan
can properly relish.

copyright © Kenneth P. Gurney

Structure

When I die
mine me for precious metals.

Not just my teeth
but my whole body molecule by molecule.

As you make separate stacks
do not worry

that my soul
may be in jeopardy.

I assure you
it rises on the song you hum.

One from our younger days
when we hoisted a pint together

and sang out loud
joyously.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Apartments Over Downtown Businesses

Paul draped
the Stars & Stripes about his shoulders.

Not for patriotism
but for the chill air blowing over bare skin.

All the time he wore
the flag as a granny’s shawl

his inner ear heard the Marine Corp band
play John Phillip Sousa marches.

He stewed in his thoughts
that politically opposed sides

stampeded issues
like spooked longhorns

ready to gore and trample anything
in their path.

Eventually a Red Cross worker
removed the thin and ember-perforated flag

from over his shoulders
and replaced it with a wool blanket.

A lovely neighbor lady who lost
just as much to the fiery riot

sat next to him and clutched his hand
comforted in the familiar face

but unknown man
she sees regularly at the corner cafe.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sake Of Old Reckonings

It was not that Paul
wanted blue and red
to join to form purple
in America

but he prayed
that they did not become
the green and orange
of the Irish Troubles.

He wondered
if thirty years
is standard
for such disagreements

before people
become tired enough
of the bloodshed
to let go of their animosities

and practice
a generous variation
of any one of the religions
they profess to live by.

Paul searched
the calendar for a day
as auspicious as Good Friday
for an agreement

an accord to at least
listen when the other side
speaks their concerns
about their futures.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Foreshadowing

The trailhead plaque
warned of mountain lions
and bears.

A crow perched upon
the top of the plaque
cast dark shadows on the letters.

The presence of no one else
uninstalled the word intrepid
from my self-description.

I wondered if it was a good day to die.
I wondered if it was a good day
to catch a movie matinee instead.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Inequity

Paul sat with a woman
at the bus stop.

They were with each other
without being with each other.

Unbeknownst to each of them
they shared a destination.

Paul heard the woman’s feet
complain about blisters.

The woman heard Paul’s feet
complain about blisters as well.

They both stared forward
not really acknowledging the other.

Christmas lights across the street
decked out Santa and his Sleigh.

There were reindeer too.
But no Rudolph with his red nose.

Paul and the woman cocked their heads
at the sound of a siren.

Snow began to fall.
More flakes landed on Paul.

The woman did not notice
this unfair distribution.

The bus arrived and splashed
snow melt onto the curb.

Paul let the woman enter the bus first.
There were plenty of open seats.

The bus driver paid Paul no mind once he paid.
He sat two rows in front of the woman.

A sign advertised the Frida Kahlo exhibit
at the art museum on the lake front.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Remainder Of The Day

In sepia
a photograph
captured
a girl dressed in
Victorian garb
mid yawn.

It captured
blur as well
since period cameras
had long
exposures.

A thumbtack
holds the photo
to a corkboard.
Three other holes
dot the top edge
of the paper.

Written in cursive script
by a person
with excellent penmanship
is the line
Lily Powell in the parlor.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

New Old West

Several floors below heaven
a passing train startles Paul awake.

His cotton mouth misspeaks
the planet’s name to a oompah band’s brass.

This unintentional misdirection
opens a seam in the universe to another

where twenty-seven children
wear cardigans and sob at the direction

of an orchestra conductor
lifting a photogenic baton.

Paul wets his face at a hands-free faucet
while portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte

and Thomas Jefferson eye each other
from adjacent sides of the mirror.

Paul notices his doll-skin pallor.
He thinks this a clue to contact his therapist.

But is afraid to interrupt happy hour
half way around the globe.

As he towels water off his face
a gunmetal quote appears on the mirror’s surface

as a cloud wishing thunder
not Smith & Wesson shots fired in a hold up

of the morning train’s mail car
as it clickity-clacks out of Dodge City, Kansas.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Prepackaged

It was the Battle Cry of Freedom
that woke Paul to feel
the blue exhilaration of Appomattox.

Throughout the day
he asked all of his friends
if they heard it too.

But they were all too busy
preparing for commercial airline flights
reversing the middle passage in coach.

Paul then turned to the pink flamingos
wading in the swimming pool
filled with water too electric to be real.

He saw they were not wet
and the one bather was suspended
like a banana slice in vibrant blue jello.

For the first time since waking
Paul considered he might be dreaming
and sleep’s storm tossed ocean

tried to message him
with a reconstruction image
destined for his conscious mind.

He tried to be calm
and hear his inner voice speak
but received only Christmas carols

way too early in the season
with Halloween a few days into the future
and a wicker basket

filled with a variety of bite-sized candy bars
ready for the doorbell to ring
with little surprises.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Pieces Falling Into Place

In your bedroom
a package of chocolate chip cookies
rests on the unkempt sheets
waiting for you to eat the surviving half.

From the swollen cookie crumbs
in the bottom of a nightstand tumbler
that smells like whiskey
I deduce it will be later today

when you right-swipe
more photos of women
a couple years younger
than the fifty you recently turned

so the money you spent
on condoms is not wasted.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney