Eyes Lowered from the Sun

Paul opens up at night.
Closes in day.

He thinks his lies are white.
They are darkening shades of gray.

Only after sex does he reveal himself.
It is when he is willing to study his nature.

He thinks his fake and stoic facade
is enough for the world.

He slavishly believes he is better than he is.
He is blind to his privilege.

Paul does say please and thank you—
it expedites future transactions.

He judges his appearance as good
only on the darkest night.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Lori ran a finger over the snow white surface of her skin
She detected the slackness of expression
and paw prints and scratch marks of wild animals.

The light was not bright enough
to illuminate every pock mark, blemish and stain
or the lush who closed a thousand bars.

There was a sheen that vanished under inspection
like ice under spinning tires as they created steam.
She slapped herself and felt her crucifix jingle on a silvery chain.

Her mouth watered—wolfish, wildly casting about
nose to the ground for a scent just located.
A growl was hunger expressing its dissatisfaction with the status quo.

She regimented the rank and file
whose eyes strayed from hers down to her breasts
and silently ordered them about face—march.

It was slow—her thumping heart.
How she felt the blood-pump push upon her ribs
that swore to protect it, not cage it.

Soft needles of snow fell and shagged the pines.
A curl of sage smoke commenced
from a ceramic bowl and match to precious leaves.

No November witch wind to blame
for a shudder up the spine and out the shoulders
that shattered her metric stiffness.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Lori is aware her reputation
changes dramatically, depending on who she is with.

She is not with the Sunday go to mass crowds
with their incredible capacity to feel shame.

Rarely she is with those for whom
heavy metal drives red blood cells back to the heart.

Voice hoarse from screaming at low hanging clouds
to expose the bloody face of the rising moon

she digs a hole at the end of the line of many holes
filled with diary pages she wishes to bury.

Lori carries herself tall
unashamed of the whispered gossip about her—

of mismatched lovers and breakups
and unmet hungers gnawing at her bones.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul was struck
by his lack of desire for the Abrahamic God
or any of the thousands of interpretations
of the Word perpetrated on the day.

He decided as a child
he had not failed Sunday school
but it failed him
as it tried to indoctrinate his behavior.

He admitted some of the stories
were good to know in a vague way
like knowing where one hill is
among thousands of nameless hills.

Paul pulled water up from the well.
He knew no matter
what he believed
the water would be the same.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Body Shaming

Lori looked at the many pieces of paper
pinned to her body by other people.

The word shame printed in many hands
in pen, pencil and marker.

Almost all of the authors were men
but twelve women joined their club.

One at a time Lori removed the pins
and their prickly critiques.

She stacked the pieces of paper together
bound them with a rubber band

and added them to her collection
sorted by date.

The pins she added to a garden-size trash bin
that was now three-quarters full.

The collection was quite large
and she thought of making a Rubenesque collage

out or all the pieces of paper
and several hedgehogs out of all the pins.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Voice I No Longer Remember

Practice spirit speech.
Wander through night doors.

Salt food with sweat.
Rise at first light.

Place a hand on a friend’s shoulder.
Walk invisibly through forests.

Inhale wet leaf aroma.
Tread paths with no destination.

Accept advice from songbirds.
Give foolishness a home.

Define success for yourself.
Overwrite old memories.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Delphi tells new people she meets
they wear the face of God.

Those people who see
a demon in the mirror

choose not to believe her
for at least ten hearings.

It is only after the twelfth time
a crack in their marble facades

appears in the faintest
glimmer of a smile

that the unassumed dare
might contain an ecstasy.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Poetry shapes words into daggers
to penetrate the listener.

To say the unsayable
form the wrong words into a mine detector

then glide it over
the vocabulary hidden under your skin

until the beeps quicken
then carefully dig and defuse the proper word.

So much of the poetry I hear at open mic
is the violent loss of virginity before puberty

and the cascading damage
shame perpetrates upon the victim.

Unabashedly revealing that truth
creates beauty from deformity.

Bend a spoon with poetry.
There is no spoon.

Bend yourself with poetry
into the shape of the you to come.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Clay Pigeons

The exit wound
always exceeds the diameter
of the bullet’s initial penetration.

So it is with harsh words.
Just enough velocity to enter
the brain and rattle around,

ricocheting off the bone walls,
shattering self-esteem
like so many clay pigeons.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney