Promise Beyond its Expiration Date

Down river
three pelicans
glided above
the dry riverbed.

I threw seeds
into the sky
to plant
new stars.

The next county over
resurrected
the dunking chair
for witch trials.

I crushed obsidian
into powder
and made a paste
to repair the night.

To fly in my dreams
I slept
on a crow’s
fallen feather.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hemisphere

Paul wakes a couple times each night out of breath.
He claims it is the fight to prevent ghosts from stealing his dreams.

His doctor prescribes a sleep study without Paul’s consent.
The noisy exhale of forest fires wraps the clinic in secrecy.

On arrival Paul quickly discovers he does not speak
the local tongue and his car does not care to taste the gravel lot.

Before lying down Paul checks the premises for a rescue dog
agitated by the purr of a rotating fan.

Sleep not finding Paul in his own bed mopes about
telling its tragic story to any who will listen at the corner bar.

Radio waves triangulate on Paul’s location
and transmit poems to his left wit, knowing his right wit is deaf.

A weather forecast keeps chiming into Paul’s verse
as an unexplained door bell in search of an on-off button.

Not catching a single wink all night
Paul repatriates himself back to his own home.

He discovers all the poems he wrote in his head during the night
appear on his desk in a white legal pad written in sepia ink.

The ghost writer settles back into a haunted book
that recounts the Civil War Battle of Valverde where he died.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Maybe Someone Will Visit

I still wake at night around one
for an hour or a tad more.

I imagine this is part of the human experience
and why the ancients knew the stars.

At night the wind’s sound is so different
while sitting under the mimosa.

Some hot nights in July I dream snow falling
and stacking flakes on the spiky cholla tips.

Imagine if Queen Victoria visited Albuquerque
in eighteen-eighty-two instead of Oscar Wilde—

to be honest I am not sure Oscar
made his way to the Rio Grande or whether I dreamt it.

Some nights returning from outside
I spy envelopes in the postbox their delivery ignored.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Night Light

Paul slept with a river smooth rock
under his pillow.

And a piece of petrified wood
machine-polished smooth.

On his nightstand
a dozen shaped clay snails

carried lustrous shells
collected from the garden’s carnage.

As sleep’s easy breath
shifted into a nightmare’s labored breathing

fog emerged from Paul’s mouth
as if the infernal dream tried to take shape.

The vapor froze into crystals that sparkled
lit with phosphorescence.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Arise

This lumbering sleep
meanders through
the frenzied black.

Delphi slaps the pillow
four times, swats
separate moon beams.

Her trembled body
tasks a whole breath
to a staggered minute.

This curtain I close
traps the moonlight
within the bulbous comforter.

When she wide-eye stares
at me, sees nothing, my startled
breath exclaims her waking.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sentinel

My mother left me one thing
when she passed away—
a statuette of a standing grizzly bear.

Smooth wood and minimal form
a dark brown stain
a granite base.

It stands at the foot of my bed
to make bad dreams wary
of approaching my sleep.

If she set it up as sentinel
back when I suffered
childhood night terrors

she would have slept
through until dawn
more often than not.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Eyes Closing

Night tends the stove,
chars the hours.

We eat it like licorice,
black lips and tongues.

A distant sun, not our sun,
goes dark in the blink of an eye.

We debate if it was ever there
or an idea that fell out of our heads.

If black is the color of mourning,
so night is its time.

Like children we tick off finger tips
as we recite those things we mourn,

though neither one of us
comes close to tears.

As silence comfortably darkens the room,
we slump into each other.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cache of Four

My sleep drifts.
I wake unintentionally slanted.
I walk all day at an angle.
Lean in my chair.
My cursive handwriting improves.

Each Christian meme
reinforces the proclamation
I am not saved
and heaven rejects me
at the river’s edge
because I do not claim
Jesus as my savior.

Just south of Albuquerque
the green farm fields
contrast the desert land
above the flood plain
and though the Rio Grande
does not appear swift or deep
the current will drag
you under for the fishes
and bull frogs.

In places God seems readily apparent
and those places have nothing
to do with humans
and their destructive constructions.
I cannot claim to know fully
how Ego skyrocketed
apartments and business buildings
into right-angle canyons.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peace

Peace comes at last,
stumbles through the dark,
grasps at the porch light,
settles on the glider
and there escapes
the youthful excitement
that ignites fireflies
over in the pasture,
before going inside
to wash at the basin,
then to bed and sleep.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Tortures Paul

He dreams of his daughter
snatched from his hands
by an American eagle,
magicked away by pixies,
torn away by wolves,
held for ransom by kidnappers,
floated out the window on a dark melody
by mysterious musical notes,
swallowed whole by a snake,
lifted skyward by the thumb
and index finger of God.

He wakes shuddering.
His hands feel so empty
they might as well not exist.
Touch cannot be trusted
ever again.

He can not shake this feeling
that he was pulled
far outside himself,
futilely trying to stop
the tragedy, holding on
until the predatory
Angel of Death
pried his fingers
away from dear life.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney