Four Mile Grove

On the way to the cemetery
to pour scotch under a headstone
Paul passes a ranch
with buck tails nailed to the top rails
between seventeen posts.

His car slides slightly over
the dashed dividing line
barely perceptible on the old asphalt
as the car begins the climb
up the mountain.

The oncoming car’s horn
is friendly enough
so that when he sees the driver’s face
it is not behind a middle finger
waved in his direction.

Four mile grove cemetery
is an historical snapshot
in old stone worn at the edges
crumbled in places
and a lack of a caretaker.

As he pours two fingers of scotch
on the grass below the newest headstone
the crude voice of the earth
sings a benediction that informs Paul
it is time to move on.

copyright © 2022 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


Each word wounds you.
Boys being boys inflict pain.
First day to last day.

When you sleep the word
tumbles through your brain
doing more damage.

You tried disappearing
firing back
and standing mute.

It did not change your status
as victim, even though
you never played the race card.

Ten, twenty years on and still
nightmares catch your breath
and wake you gasping.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

No One Does Night

No one does night
as well as the night.

Which of us could hold
so many stars?

Especially the star
we call the sun.

I contain multitudes
is simply a good start.

We are not so large
to understand our emptiness

and how vital that emptiness is
for each point of light.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Deluge Got Me Thinking

Dallas is so underwater.
Fifteen inches of rain in twenty-four hours.

I hope the art survived
dry and temperature controlled in museums.

And that joint you told me about
with the good pastrami sandwich and pickles.

Really. All I know of Dallas
is the airport hub and jetting off to somewhere else.

One day I will have to visit the concrete and glass
to learn what makes it beautiful on the inside

instead of luxuriating in the natural beauty
of my sparsely populated New Mexico.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

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