Melancholy Replay

Paul dropped his apology
in the grass under an apple tree.

He thought it easy to find
but it proved as difficult as a green contact lens.

He returned to Lori without the apology
and attempted to rewrite history.

Paul’s second versions of history
trespassed, left muddy footprints

all over Lori’s self-esteem
and further fractured their relationship.

Paul without Lori felt a brokenness
where an expectation of approaching perfection failed.

He crafted a new larger apology
that was really a Swiss Army Knife apology

with sixteen different tool shaped apologies
for both assembling and dismantling.

Paul stopped at Lori’s to give her
this red and stainless steel apology.

Lori examined the exploration-ready apology
opened the knife blade and sliced an apple.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shucked and Eaten Raw

Each time Lori
answered her phone
dopamine flushed
her central nervous system
clear of inhibitions
so she sang out loud
in public.

At night in a pub
others joined in
eyes torn from colored pixels
and disembodied transmissions.
Their inner ears
found new balance
returning lost feet.

At the sound of the chorus
eye-prisms broke light
into a mathematics remembered
from high school geometry
and applied goodwill
be grasped and stretched
like saltwater taffy.

Lori reconfigured songs
to reassemble friendships
shattered by misunderstandings
that flayed tender words
into hologram shadows
left low and dry
in floorboard cracks
by long ago spilled beer.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

You Don’t Have Tattoos

Humidity formed a thumb
that squished me
like an ant
on a Savannah sidewalk.

Your pumice breath
scraped all the calcified kisses
off my lips
before you planted
a new one on me.

Some days
the only difference
between cops
and gangsters
is the blue uniform.

The war never stopped.
Its remnants are visible
at Fort Pulaski.
The war is economic now—
fueled by prejudice.

I am fine
with brushing your hair
but I will scrub
the pots and pans
only if you cook.

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


When Paul said he was hungry
he meant for Lori’s hands
kneading into his flesh
so the bedsheets
would bandage loneliness
while the soft night soothed
all the consonants and vowels
escaping his exaltation.

He wished it to end with an amen
that spread across the sheets
like the June breeze
through the open windows
and yet be a hullo
that inspired a deeper reacquaintance
and lead to honest conversation.

It would be a vaccine
that protected them from the emptiness
of the black space between moon and stars.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


I was raised by the many ghosts of the great depression.
The did not haunt the house, but haunted my parents.

The ghosts remained dormant until money became a topic.
The ghosts lived in my dad’s wallet and inside two checkbooks.

The ghosts did not follow the family into Sunday church
where father managed to liberate a fiver for the collection plate.

The ghosts preferred to crowd the bank
and change the expressions on the bank clerks’ faces.

The bank clerks’ new expressions were akin to recognizing
John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde.

My father looked nothing like Clyde Chestnut Barrow.
My mother had Bonnie Elizabeth Parker’s lithe stance.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

On the Surface of What is Real

Paul sorts through the Scrabble tiles
for a willful word
that will brook no descent.

Lori tires of waiting for the message
and moves to the kitchen
to finish the dishes.

Pushing them apart
was never Paul’s intent
so he alters his mouth

to launch an apology
off his tongue
toward Lori’s ears.

Not looking for words
her head is turned
at the wrong angle.

Some utterances
fail to part the curtain of hair
covering her ears.

So the apology becomes a malady
of television watched alone
on the love seat.

Paul starts over
after an uncomfortable hour
with an old standard

that comes from some place real
with an I love you
that pierces Lori’s mood

and finds that beautiful place
where conversation begins
and troubled waters smooth.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Trying to rewind his life
to last Thursday to a time ten minutes before
he said something stupid to Lori
which got her mad at him,
Paul walked backwards through the neighborhood.

The neighborhood sidewalks
were old and uneven.
His first stumble and fall
took place in front of their cafe—
the place where they first met.

He banged his head on the concrete.
Several bystanders helped him up
and gave him walking suggestions.
The best one was if he insists on walking backward
not to have his hands in his pockets.

Paul walked backward into Sarti’s Bar
which was full of happy hour people
busy with happy hour drinking.
He bumped into a bus-woman clearing tables
and sent empties spinning across the floor.

The merriment of the bar flowed around him
like he was a stone moving through a stationary stream.
The metaphor was backward enough to tickle his fancy.
His laughter joined the merriment of the joint.
He took a barstool and ordered a pint.

With his back to the silent TV he cheered
when others cheered the Broncos football play.
Neil Young’s Heart of Gold played on the old jukebox.
Lori walked forward into Sarti’s.
Because he was not facing the television Paul saw her arrive.

Lori walked forward to the bar next to him
squeezed between two occupied barstools
and ordered a pint. He apologized.
She accepted the apology and commented
that Mary called her to get down here when he entered backwards.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Downhill Toward a Hairpin Curve

Paul drove his dad to the hazardous waste dump.
His dad radiated a cobalt blue glow.

This glow was his nature shining through his death
as the body initiated decomposition.

He was a mean old cuss who was not afraid
to shoot your dog to make a point.

Paul feared the incineration of cremation
would release toxic particulate into the air.

He wanted professionals who would neutralize
the acid tongue that spoke from a heart of darkness.

He was sure he would have to junk his car
once this ride was over.

Nothing would get that blue glow
out of the upholstery.

The Geiger counter he carried on walks
through the desert near Los Alamos clicked regularly.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney