Missouri Compromised

A grasshopper swam
traveled something like
single file
and ate their way
across US lawns
and prairie
so a single line
in the country’s grass
stood out
when astronauts
looked down
from the international
space station.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul grew a beard.
He did not recognize himself in the mirror.

His mirrored hand moved
to scratch the beard on his left side.

His real arm remained at his right thigh.
His blood pressure rose four points.

His mirror presented spread peacock tail feathers
behind his head.

Paul turned around to see the watercolor poster
of shorebirds adjacent to the sandy tide.

He spoke indirectly to his mirror image
and it kept quiet listening.

His murmured thought caused his mirror image
to bend its ear toward him.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Single Dill Pickle For Breakfast

Lori screams in the shower
seeing eyeballs in the ceramic tiles.

The heat of the pounding water
set her skin aflame to purify.

Leaches fell from her body
as the watching eyes closed.

The leaches were small enough to fit
through the strainer holes

and whirl down the drain
to start their trip to Texas.

Lori toweled off with an open
pack of orange Jello.

Her skin soon jiggled
with the oddest tan.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Seashell not Brass

Paul buttoned his shirt.
He unbuttoned it.
He buttoned it again.
He buttoned it eyes open.
And eyes closed.
He buttoned it slowly.
And quickly.
He tried buttoning the shirt top to bottom.
Then bottom to top.

As he buttoned the shirt
Paul wondered
why the button
did not fill the buttonhole
but simply held thread
tied to the shirt in the buttonhole.

He thought of the differences
between buttoning-unbuttoning
and buckling-unbuckling
the belt holding up his jeans.

Paul thought of a woman
pushing a child into the world
through birthing.
As long as the umbilical cord
was attached
how like a button the child was.

And how like a lost button
the child would soon be.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Midnight Laundry Result

A solitary sock hung on the laundry basket.
It felt no pain. It felt no itching.
It did not plot a run across the house to the dresser.

It was new out of the packing.
It was dry from its inaugural washing.
It had never felt toes.

The wool that formed it was multi-colored.
The thickness of its weave suggested winter.
The length of its tube suggested a long foot.

Though it was half of a Christmas present
it was first washed a day after
the feast of the Epiphany.

The sock was not yet lonely separated from its mate.
The sock observed a bucket of rags.
It was unfazed by the steady drip of the utility sink faucet.

Its mate sat atop a dresser in the bedroom.
It thought about the color melancholy.
It wondered why socks did not have names.

It watched snow fall outside the window.
The security lights tripped on.
It lay atop four loose pennies and a nickel.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Poorly Labeled

A package arrived today
at my Albuquerque home.

The corners were damp.
The package was labeled Rain.

With a box cutter
I slit the tape and opened it.

What I first thought were packing peanuts
was a cloud.

The cloud filled
half the height of the box.

When I pulled the cloud out
it expanded and covered our ceiling.

It rained on the carpet
all through the house.

As rain pelted me
I looked in the bottom of the box.

I saw blackened cardboard
where lightning struck.

The house shock with thunder.
The guest room bed burned.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Theory of Everything

Paul put Everything in its place.
Everything rejected this notion
and got up to move about.

Everything did this without animus
without hate.

Everything moved about because
it did not wish to collect dust.
Dust landed on it in motion.

When Paul discovered Everything
was not in its place
he felt a bit exasperated.

The bit was in the lower lefthand corner
of the definition of exasperated.

The full definition of exasperated
reported Paul’s theft to the authorities.

The authorities decided to crackdown
on small thefts and evil greed.

Paul was arrested in the development
of his theory of Everything
moving about without his permission.

He had not thought of calling the authorities
to use force to keep Everything
in its place.

Everything testified on Paul’s behalf
stating he was an excellent human
in all of his faults and frailties.

The authorities agreed
to absolve Paul of his sins
as long as he returned
that bit of exasperation he stole.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


I painted a stone black
and called it night.

I wrote the word good on it
once the black paint dried.

I thought of throwing it through
your window.

I asked fireflies to carry it through
your open window.

I took firefly hostages
in a mason jar.

No negotiator arrived
to hear my terms.

I set the hostages free
and pocketed the stone.

You sleepwalked out of your room
but not out of your house.

I saw you downstairs in the kitchen
and hoped you woke

for more than an appetite
for comfort food.

You returned upstairs
when I stepped between the geraniums.

I organized six snails
and pointed them toward your door.

I placed the black rock upon their shells
after I bribed them with beer.

Three nights later and you had not yet
received my message.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


I take a baseball and toss it as high as I can.
My toss fails to puncture a cloud.

My hands fail to catch the ball when it returns to earth.
The ball’s white hide is now grass-stained.

I determine to practice until a throw punctures a cloud.
I require a great deal of practice.

A crowd gathers to watch my tosses.
No one interferes and some cheer me on.

The cheers apply to good tosses.
Ones that come really close to the clouds.

The crowd enlarges and people at the outer edge
are not quite sure why they are here.

Nor can they see me toss the ball
even though they do see the ball go up and up and up.

The fringe of the crowd starts drumming and dancing
which diverts part of my crowd to become their crowd.

Other parts of the fringe play music on instruments
while others startup rope-skipping competitions.

So the crowd’s attention is now split seven ways to Sunday
but it is Tuesday and the saying fails.

On my eleventy-twenty-third toss I hit a cloud
but do not puncture it as planned.

I think the cloud took pity on my tiring arm
and lowered itself.

Though it may have wanted a closer look
at the drummers, dancers, rope-skippers, and crowd.

The cloud rains just a little. Not much.
But enough to dampen a square inch of each shirt in the crowd.

We continued until it is nearly suppertime
when everyone disperses.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney