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

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