Under the Patronage

Paul thought the monarch migration
was all the world’s royals
meeting in a small French town
on the Mediterranean Sea.

He imagined their numbers were thinned
by the long flight
as predators along the way
picked off stragglers.

They are now refugees
from peasant revolts
whose strength in numbers
outweigh the monarch’s strength in coin.

Paul thought about
habitual income inequality
and how poorer readers
flocked to Karl Heinrich Marx.

He imagined wide spread distribution
of the The Communist Manifesto
among the cotton slaves
held in the southern United States

during the Gold Rush year
and how the bloody uprising
would pre-date John Brown
and spread through northern sweatshops.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

While in Transit

Lori unhinged the house
folded it windows and all
then placed it into her hand bag.

As she walked
a loose shutter clacked
and banged with each step.

As she walked
all the leaves in the gutters
fell on to her path.

Lori walked until she was under
the perfect patch of sky
and then unfolded the house.

The house mouse
navigated this physics challenge
and raided the pantry.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

New Breed

On this green grass
live languages graze
like stock out to pasture
on the commons.

No one owns language
so it may not be used
as a medium of exchange
to pay your tab.

But there is a wealth
most readily acknowledged
in listening to Shakespeare
and Marlowe.

No one talks like that anymore.
We have not lost it
but set it aside
for cryptic reasons.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

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

Show of Feathers

A flock of titmice
flit branch to branch
early in the day
before the three
neighborhood house cats
are let out to walk
the top of the cinder block wall
with the lattice fence
on their way
to the compost pile
compelled by their nature
to hunt fattened mice.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Recitation

It is nighttime.
I leave my body while it sleeps
and sit on the bed beside myself.

The digital clock’s red numbers display 12:53.
The motion sensor flips on an outside light.
The light comes through the blinds to brighten the walls.

There is the temptation to walk away from myself.
To go to the drawers and pack.
To take a trip.

My dreaming mind hikes Mount Wheeler under starlight.
My body remains in bed in Albuquerque.
My separate self is frozen in indecision.

I nod my head, consider the importance of remaining.
How I and this snoring body are a team.
Teamwork generates contentment.

I keep nodding.
The dream walk reaches Williams Lake.
I recite poems to night owls.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Groove and Tongue

The street narrows.
Its black surface absorbs all light.
A channel forms a center line that pulses.

The light flows east to west in the morning.
Gravity has no effect.
At high noon it pauses then reverses course.

Three black city rats exit the sewer.
They sprint through stalled traffic.
They stop to drink—turn luminescent blond.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mother and Dog

In all the years since my mother’s death
she has not once visited me in ghostly form.

I take this as a sign she is at peace
and the hereafter is more like a craft project than a poem.

I know I was not easy to raise.
My rascally brain did not appreciate syntax or logic.

She was like a window shade kept down
to keep a house plant from the sun.

I grew anyway—tall, thin and awkward.
It took befriending a dog for me to fill out in mind and body.

Time treated mother and me the same in spite of our differences.
Our similarities. Our love of mac & cheese.

When I picture her in my mind
I hold her hand when we cross the street.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


We sought to liberate the slave
from the cruelness
of sun, field and lash

but did not consider
the eternal enmity
of former owners in defeat.

We could have swept
the Old Dominion state
clean into the ocean.

Cleared it
of plantation owners
and the white working class.

The radical Republicans
desired something
akin to that response.

Mr. Lincoln desired
a new testament ending
rather than an old one.

So we honored
the terms Grant delivered
and filled no more coffins.

But it was we
who suffered future retribution
for simply breathing free air.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

End of Town

Paul stops walking.
His feet halted
by a pink pacifier on the ground.

He stands in the middle of a grassy field.
The field is punctuated with wild flower blooms.
The trail is one body wide.

Paul scans three hundred and sixty sight lines.
No human beings are visible.
A wailing echo exists at the edge of his hearing.

He bends at the knee and waist.
He tilts his head closer to the pacifier.
It recites familiar lines.

A. A. Milne’s poem.
J. J. M. M. W. G. Du. P….

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney