Restoration

Dora places
bright orange
construction cones
around our
love seat
as we initiate
the project
of building intimacy
but refurbishing
may be a better word
since we have
been together
fourteen years.
Lovely years
interspersed
with flareups
over silly things
like my ragged
flannel shirt
or her coffee mug
with the broken handle.
And serious things
like my resolving PTSD
and her releasing
codependency.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Repair

I placed my goal
in a vow
of silence
that should last
at least
three years
so the air
would have time
to heal
from my
violent rhetoric
in our last
stupid fight
over the date
Constantinople
changed its name
to Istanbul.
Which was
nineteen-thirty.
A date
neither of us
had right.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Not A Fairy Tale

Paul wrote a love story.
It was a hate story too.

Overall on the imagined scales of justice
love outweighed hate a hundred to one.

The problem was a linear story
weighs things at different times.

There was a plot point two-thirds of the way
through the story

that hate in the fictional wife’s mind
tipped the scale against her husband

on the day she learned
he had an affair with her sister.

Although both Leviticus and Deuteronomy
prescribe death for adulterers

the wife chose leaving
the house that was not a home anymore—

to not be a wife anymore
and to find another hand to hold her hand.

Being in her thirties she was not afraid
of dying of loneliness.

She packed her few things and left
on a great American road trip.

She discovered in her third hotel room
that she did not miss

the sound of manly feet on the floor at night
or picking up his socks from around the house.

The day she was in Taos New Mexico
she saw a triple rainbow against the mountains.

She declared it a sign.
A new life fell into place as if waiting for her.

The man who once was her husband
married the woman who remained her sister.

She did not attend the wedding.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Surrender

Knowing your mercenary heart
I asked you to fight my battles
and win every one.

We haggled for several hours
but were too far apart
and neither side opted for arbitration.

I no longer know your voice
since you chose not to be the fierce friend
to back me up in bars.

You took up watching soap bubbles
exude from fancy toys
to dazzle park goers.

I dove into digital numbers—
the infinite subset between
zero and one.

As you gathered folks around you
to enjoy the simple wonders
that brought you to natural settings

I pushed them farther and father away
connecting through applications
and screens across oceans.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Couched

It was too late for Paul.
Too many beers to drive safely back home.

Being too late, his relationship might end.
But his relationship’s trouble was why he drank.

If the cantina had not been too busy
the bartender might have listened to him vent.

In that case he might have drunk less
and been home at a reasonable time.

In time for an argument about the beer on his breath
and her contention David Bowie

was the greatest rocker of all time.
A designation he gave to Led Zeppelin.

He loved arguing this type of personal truth
when he was twenty-something.

Now he felt all these debates should be settled
since social media was readily available

and ranked choice voting applied
to determine the greatest rocker once and for all.

Paul kept his keys in his pocket
and pulled out his smart phone for a Lyft.

He went outside to wait
afraid he would not notice the arrival notification

over the brassy mariachi band
and lovely Latin girls dancing skirts aswirl.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Breakup

I know I am not blameless.
I broke most of my promises
to myself, too.

My punishment is searching for you
as dusk settles
in a Grimms’ Fairy Tale forest

I fell asleep under a tree and woke
with scales, a long tail, a smoking snout
and heartburn.

I found your footprints in the dirt.
They led into an aspen grove
and away from me.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Burned Out Wick

I can tell from looking in your eyes
you will skin me alive
if I keep secrets from you.

I think about all the ways
I am the target
of your paranoid marksmanship.

Of course there is shouting
when we use vodka to fuel
our lamps.

At least while you are drunk
your aim is poor
and I can run to the river.

And there I may dive in
to join the other surviving fish
with hooks cut from their mouths.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Penguins

I see the ocean surround me
everywhere I go.

I live on the mountain
and in deep salty waters.

There are birds that fly
both mountain air and the ocean.

Do not swat at the things that bother you
or you may break their wings.

Sometime last year I realized
my heartbeat powers the tide.

I feel I should have naturally
sensed that rhythm

and recognized it
shortly after I was born.

Maybe puberty pushed it
out of my awareness.

I placed my hand on my heart
to regulate the tides

and alter the moon’s effect
on my love life.

I removed
a rib by mistake

and broke it into a quintuplet
set of Eves—

all penguins swimming
near the tree line.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Top Of My Right Ear

We practice
some body contortions
and some simple positions
so our scars press
against each other
with the understanding
those pale lines
represent us
at our most open,
raw and vulnerable.

Taking turns
our tongues
tell our scars’ stories
even if the telling
drops our words
into whispers.

With our bare fingers,
we practice
learning this odd
raised-skin Braille
so we may decipher
the words that never
find their way
to our tongues
and so, by chance,
our fingers may recognize
and translate the pain
that never broke skin.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Father On His Son’s Birthday

Alone, on the old Manassas Battlefield,
I wait for you, for what you might be,
what I might become. I sit
on the thick grass near the Robinson House
and listen to the voices of birds,
the voices of the old bronze monuments,
the voices on the wind as it moves through the branches.

If you have grown into yourself, as I hope,
how will I recognize your voice,
the different tread of your footsteps,
the recent histories you speak?

Lonely, I walk down to the stone bridge—
Bull Run flows as it has for years uncounted—
to the new road that layers itself
upon the old road that once carried limbers
and their combative cannon.

Lonely, I trust that our battles ended,
that a reconstruction of our friendship
returns like the song birds
to find the berries ripe upon the branches,
like the farmers who till the fields
as all their forefathers before them.

If you have grown into yourself, as I hope,
you do not need me anymore,
do not require my advice or guidance.
Boldly, you make your own history.

Alone, on the old Manassas Battlefield,
I walk the slight path past the farm ford
and up the flanks of Matthews Hill
where Evans once stood up to Burnside,
where you, my son, first stood up to me.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

I ran out of new work that I felt good enough to post, since I had a tough writing week where creativity was scarce. This poem is from my book Fluid Shape Of An Empty Womb. It is one of my all time favorites of my own poems.