Thought The Flue Was Open

Lover, your jukebox repertoire
inserts platters of sound
into my open mind.
I have no way to close it.

Please sit in a chair
and eat sardines straight from the can
and give me respite
from your cat-scratch voice.

The clouds of song
obscure my free lunch
I know is somewhere
on the table in front of me.

You seem to be unappreciative
of my devotion to meals,
especially the alluring spheres
of Braeburn apples.

My, how this room is overcast
with all your trebles
by day and by night,
by land and by sea.

Lover, this obscuring
of our shared house-scape
is merely a smoke screen
to hide alluring tragedies.

Moments from taking shape
without real discussion
of a pleasingly
fatal mistake.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Horace Greeley

Paul lived with his girlfriend
until she brought home
a dancer statuette with a clock belly.

Its proximity prevented Paul
from painting, writing poetry,
and fielding hot grounders at shortstop.

He ate a bucket of fried chicken
and used the leftover drumsticks
to remove the clock’s unwholesome aura.

He tapped on the statuette
with the bones until he worked up a sweat,
but to no effect.

After the two of them dropped dumplings
fumbling around with chopsticks,
he decided it was time to go.

Paul was sure an unwritten rule applied
that allowed him to not be home
when she returned from work Tuesday evening.

He packed while she processed
insurance claims for incidental auto damage
such as a grocery carts rolling into front grills.

Even though he paid for the bathroom digital scale
he left it behind.
His copy of Hirshfield’s After he left behind by mistake.

Upon arriving at his friend’s to couch surf,
he noticed a total lack of trees and grass
at the apartment complex.

He decided to think this over with a couple beers.
On his way to the bar he passed speed radar
that flashed thirty-seven, his lucky number.

He never stopped for the beer.
He pulled onto the interstate instead,
blasted Bat for Lashes and headed west.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Best

I gave you my best self.
It was a first generation copy of my best self.

The original burst into flame
in my therapist’s office.

Good thing I make a back up
every ten days, overwriting the old backup.

It was the best gift I could think to give you.
I thought it would energize our relationship.

If photos recorded how we would be
ten minutes into the future,

each photo would show us taking a new photo.
Obsessed with the future, we’d forget to live in the present.

Imagine me feeding you a strawberry
slathered with whip cream.

I would do it if that would focus us
on that instant together without tangents or drift.

We would learn to tell time to shove off,
so a romantic afternoon

trickled into an evening, a sunset—
us listening to each other like never before.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Around The Dog

Not tonight.
No he said she said.

No ping pong either.

No! Table tennis
is ping pong by another name.

Not fair of you to try to slip one by me.

I am tired and U. S. Grant’s migraine
infects my left hemisphere.

Yes. The brain. I feel blurry.

So now you think
we are a few hours from surrender.

Oh, how Appomattox of you.

This bedroom is not
Wilmer McLean’s parlor on April ninth.

Good night, dear.

Roll over and fall asleep
with your arm around the dog.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Part Of Love

Paul’s hand rests on Lori’s independence.
A few days ago it was her thigh.

The disappearance of Lori’s affection
leaves Paul covered in dust.

Each chooses seconds
to negotiate the terms of a duel.

The seconds urge them to visit
a couples counselor.

Lori and Paul chose yelling
and screaming instead.

Their yelling and screaming cleared the air,
but a new front brought in more storm clouds.

The seconds tired of Paul and Lori
making their lives miserable,

suggested they start over
with more attentive ears.

But Paul and Lori grew up in homes
where yelling and screaming was part of love.


copyright 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Where You Are

We seek each other out.
We are not hard to find.
You in your studio.
Me in my poetarium.

We speak something akin to religion.
We speak something to raise our spirits.
Our incantation of togetherness.
I love you.

The words paper the walls
of every room in the house.
They dot the backyard
like birds pecking the seed we spread.

I did not give up
on the search for home,
but accepted I found it
where you are.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Balance

Antiseptic romance.
A celibacy celebration.

A scratch without an itch.
Unscathed by complications.

No matter how little sunshine
there are shadows.

Precious freckles.
Glasses askew.

Childish voices set aside.
Repair to the confidential quarter.

A conversational flush.
A rash of old fears.

How to make love’s underbelly
as good as new.

Yes. The scars remain red.
Day old at best years later.

Look at the stars.
Choose one and wish.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sitting

My moss-laden tongue
confirms my muleheaded silence.

We share porch-swing condolences.
We share a pot of licorice tea.

Dora crafts mud figurines.
She rewrites formulaic principles.

She references Hawkeye in one-sided conversation.
We observe the exact instant the tide turns.

My careworn vocabulary lines up for roll call.
I love you survives a forlorn hope.

We view the next world’s separating membrane.
We swear mutual fealty.

Dora summons a sun-steeped red sky.
She performs Buffalo Nickel magic tricks.

We harvest heirloom stars for new wishes.
We store them in a sweetgrass basket.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

forlorn hope is the first wave of an assault into the breach of a fortified position and usually sustained extremely high casualties if not get wiped out. I applied poetic license to this meaning.

Point Where Two Curves Meet

I cannot see my grandparents.
I thought they would wait for me
on the cusp of the apocalypse.

Maybe they are there
but I do not recognize them.

Maybe I do not see them
because I never knew what they looked like.
There were no photographs.

I look around for Mom and Dad.
No bickering, so they are not around.

Maybe this darkness with an edge
is not the apocalypse after all.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

It was only after my parents’ death that I learned of a photo album that contained images of my grandparents. I was born after three of them had passed away. I knew my paternal grandfather briefly with only one clear memory of him sitting in a chair in our house at Christmas when I was five years old.

I do not know a way of measuring the effect of having or not having grandparents in your life, how their presences shapes you, and so on. Also I do not know how to measure how their loss affected my parents’ (or anyone’s parents’) attitudes and practices in raising children.

My guess is, through lack of knowing my grandparents, I failed to appreciate family history, the farm, the immigrant experience and how it shaped the family. Simply put, I never got to hear them tell the stories of their lives.

Dianne walked in and wants to hang out. And our brief conversation that initiated hanging out knocked the thoughts I was leading to out of my brain. So If any of you have a thought about the previous three paragraphs, please leave a comment.

Love & Light.

Kenneth

Promontory

In the years we bathed in gasoline
and played with matches,
I attained most of my extremes
and never wished to return.

We separated after a year
of burning photographs
and stethoscopes
and all of our money.

She now lives outside
a city on an ocean bay
that regularly knows flooding
and shuttered fishing boats.

I now live on a mountain
where sorrow has thickened to granite.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney