Name on the Best Seller List

Paul thought back to his first time making love.
It was in a sleeping bag while camping.

Two sleeping bags zipped together.
The romance of the stars above.

He remembered how relaxed they were in the afterglow.
How they made up new constellations.

The backstories for those star groupings.
How a sliver of moon pierced the sky.

He hated that the romance did not last long.
The two of them. Together.

Though they were good together.
Kind. Considerate. Tender.

Their goals were in different directions.
Hers to the flat city. His to the mountainous wilderness.

Neither of them wanted to give up their dreams.
Or for the other to give up their dream.

So they parted well. With good wishes.
But they lost touch in less than a year.

Paul thought about her brown eyes.
Her straight black hair. Her soft hand in his.

He remembered that he was more afraid than she.
It was his first time. But not hers.

He remembered she was so plainly human.
Not much pretend about her.

Like the mountain forests he loved to wander.
Like the revealing books she wrote.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


We watched the eclipse of the moon
from the edge of the yard
where the curb defined the street.

As the moon grew darker
we brightened—
words of greeting first met.

Orbital in conversation
we determined to see the fragment
each one was of the other.

At the margins time existed.
The moon cleared
and performed its setting melody.

Sun stroked the top mimosa leaves.
Stumbled words invited
a second meeting with intention.

Street lamps wink out.
A date refused to be a cliff’s edge.
A ballgame—so blank linen or parchment.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Face Value

Paul got engaged
when he was nineteen.

It did not last long
because the girl did not wish to marry.

She did desire to wear
a diamond on her ring finger

and show it off to her girlfriends
for a couple days.

She loved Paul for not being mad
and for understanding her desire.

He did not understand
but simply accepted facts at face value.

They had a dis-engagement dinner
the equivalent of the dinner

on night he originally proposed
happily-ever-after-ing together.

There was no breakup sex
since neither of them felt broken.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Building A Swipe-Right Profile

All Paul looked for
was a woman his age
with realistic expectations
of the human condition
and to seriously
not take things too seriously.

He told me over tea
he did not want that youthful love
where sex tangles up
both people without really seeing
each other for who they are
in less than a year.

If she asked him to take her
to his childhood home
he would refuse
and become silent knowing
there would be no right time to tell
that story and hope
she could connect the blurred dots.

He would offer to clean house
and do the grocery shopping
because he enjoys those things.
But she would have to
call the doctor for him
when he needed an appointment
because that was beyond his abilities.

And plastics. She would have to try
to remove as much plastic as possible
from their shared lives
even though that task is Sisyphus
pushing the rock against gravity each day.
But the job left un-started
never gets finished.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Meat Beneath The Shell

Paul studied the map
of Ellie’s eyelids
during her mountainside
afternoon nap.

Sunlight might burn
those blood vessels
into her retinas
so he cast shade on her.

The nearby stream
carried this story toward the sea
and wondered how many miles
it would have to bear it.

As Ellie’s past lives gathered
they splashed barefoot in the stream
skirts and jeans hiked up
above their knees.

Paul daydreamed
a way into Ellie’s heart
and unintentionally moved an aspen grove
closer to the stream.

He pondered whether
to count this hour of Ellie’s sleep
as wasted or well used
or a nut snatched by a Stellar’s jay.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hot Bread On The Sill Cools

Demand my affection
between the rows of blue corn.

An old folk song spills
from the farm house window.

We follow its lines back
to a threshold, return to a garden,

a love seat, an end table
with tall glasses of lemonade.

Demand my kisses
where the apples still hang

from stiff stems, not quite ripe,
but close—delicious to contemplate.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Over by the compost heap, the shovel
rests in turned earth—its blade an obstacle
for the many earthworms who rise up
from the firm ground to consume vegetables.

She gathers rose petals in an old washtub
on the back porch and water from the well.
Her bare feet depress the green grasses,
the brown grasses, the prints of mice.

Larka puts on a swan white blouse,
tweed pants, suspenders. Her hair,
fresh from washing, drips onto her chest,
plasters blouse to flesh.

The creek flows past the orchard,
past the dogs’ chase games without noticing.
The water’s rough decent flows around rocks
sets spray to light for shimmering mist-bows.

From the front porch swing, she sees
the dust cloud on the gravel road.
It approaches until the old truck bounces
into view, engine cranking a drive shaft.

He steps out of the cab, sweat soaked shirt
beneath a ragged blue overall bib.
His farm blunt hands unhook his brass.
His sun bleached lips draw her upward.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Once I romanced a married woman.
My excuse that I thought she was divorced
rang hollow as I saw him
drop off their children at the cafe
where we met. Where she worked.

We both scrambled to fill voids
in the lives we lived
and break the hidden curses
that thwarted the pursuit
of our own happiness.

It was not a connective smile
on a chance meeting,
but months of conversations
over tea, over chess
the small hole in her red wool scarf.

January was not so cold
as in years past
and the dream of better lives
shocked our dreary truths
with electric hope.

It did not last long. A week. Ten days.
Neither of us could turn away
from traditional societal expectations.
Fidelity to commitment—
to children, if not her husband.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Moon Over Syntax

Paul considered Dora’s elbow
as it stuck out
with her hands cupped
behind her head
as she reclined upon pillows.

His gaze drifted
across the bridge of her nose
to the wine glass
set upon a saucer
with scone crumbs
left there from morning.

He brought himself back
to their slim dialogue
but paid more attention
to how his hand felt
the gentle rise of her breath
from where it lay
diagonal across her belly.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney