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

Phases

When Paul was a baby
he cried, Mother! Mother! Mother!
only when she slept
under a night
made darker than usual
by a new moon—
which is when she slept
the deepest sleep.

On those nights
I became mother
crawling from under
my own bedsheets
to deal with
whatever made him
cry out
and hoped
it was not
the monster
I placed under his bed
three months before.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Behest

If you find me asleep
on my back,
please roll me to my side,
preferably my left side down,
so I sleep better
and dream less
about the goings-on
all around me,
since that would turn my back
to this troublesome
twenty-four-seven world
that does not miss me
at political rallies, rodeos,
gun shows or bar time
and hardly cares
if I face the other way
with one ear to the mattress
listening for the melodious footfalls
of the Angel of Death
on the floor boards.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Reach

Seconds are years
when you wake too early,
cannot fall back to sleep
and the mattress
feels like it would prefer
the exquisite form
of someone else’s body.

A war starts in Albuquerque
but it is so familiar
and of such an ordinary size
the news does not recognize it
even though it is part
of the incidental music
behind the city streets.

A new line of street lamps,
made of recycled hand guns,
are accustomed to the heat
of a different type of ignition
and make a brief flash
instead of something constant.

The sky is pocked
with brightly colored balloons
practicing ascension
for those who believe
the end of the world is nigh
and not a night when sleep
is torturously out of reach,
like car keys an inch past
outstretched fingertips
through the sewer grate.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

We Go Forward

I float by your side
like a balloon
you still hold onto
from childhood.

Your blue eyes
reflect on my face
turning me blue—
Lake Crescent blue.

I hover close
as you wash coffee cups,
sweep the floor
and make the bed.

Today, you have
less patience
for the mud
tracked across the floor.

Each clod reminds you
of the grave
and the first shovel full
tossed in ceremony.

You tie me
to the brass door nob
and lose yourself
rereading The Hobbit.

Before bed you cry
because you require a pill
for some semblance of sleep
next to my absence.

The chemical chain
unties me from the door nob.
After you toss the covers
I float into your dreams.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney