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

Pendulum

Paul can’t sleep.
He sits up and the covers slump to his lap.
He grabs Peter Rabbit.
He is not too old for this comfort, though he is old.

He listens to the wind whip around the house,
to the heavy rain banging the swamp-cooler,
to the roof’s runoff trickling into the cistern,
to the house’s creaks and groans.

Paul thinks of his childhood, growing up outside Chicago.
How snow was always on the ground at Christmas.
How Halloween was safe for trick-or-treating kids.
How the movies were twenty-five cents a ticket.

He remembers the lake park and its swing sets.
How he would swing back and forth.
How he would swing up and down.
How he loved the timeless pendulum motion.

Paul falls back to sleep.
He still holds onto Peter Rabbit.
The covers remain off of his shoulders.
The swing’s rising and falling matches his breath.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Gated Self

I know I have walls.
They help me sleep better.

I know I have a gate with security guard
to keep out the riffraff.

It is so difficult to identify the riffraff
when they dress nicely.

I know there are times
I place razor wire upon my walls.

I know there are days
my gate should stand wide open.

It should have a welcome banner overhead.
I should show my house to strangers.

My house is not for sale.
But I will lease my friendship.

Short term leasing is preferred.
A chance meeting. A couple days on vacation.

Even a few weeks after introductions
at an opening or reading are fine.

I know I have walls.
They help me sleep through the night.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Painstaking

Each of us maps out
our tragic sorrows
we retell over and over
then files a claim
with the local magistrate
as if inviting friends
to an outdoor picnic
to barbecue
a prizewinning memory
and consume it
like the holy host
only to see it reshape
its dragon form
in the brain’s storage bin
after a deep sleep.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fitting

Dora’s hands rub red
and purple sweet pea blossoms.
Oils scent her palms.
She places her hands to her face,
inhales deeply. Worry lines smooth.
She strokes her pillow case
and lies down for a nap,
fitting snuggly
into their heavenly scent.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Acequia

The night tosses my sleep about the bed.
It pretzels my legs.
The sheets escape to a quiet place on the floor to slumber.

I murmur a thousand unintelligible untruths,
to be released from this nightly torment.
Ten years. Twenty years. Thirty years and more.

Along my spine is a map of linen folds.
In the air above my bed ten-thousand torn post-it notes
slip away from their messages.

Deep waters flood into the field adjacent to my open window.
The acequia gate opened by tricksters, drunks
or, more likely, old man Rodriguez for his blooming acres.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney