I came across the trees one night
walking in single file, abandoning the forest.
The rain fell to cover their tracks
and filled the disturbed earth where their roots once held.

They were delayed at the river
as each tree stopped to soak up water.
The river was a muddy bed
by the time all the trees forded.

I was unable to determine if there was a leader.
I thought the first tree would be the leader.
That tree wore a tartan scarf and lost Batman kite
and behaved more like a rambunctious pup.

Compared to these trees I am very young.
As the young do, I wondered what I did for them to abandon us.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Demi-Plié Sonnet

Poetry decided to speak
in sign language.
It did not announce this fact
before the slam.

Poetry incorporated
the flow of limbs, hands and fingers
into the recitation
of free verse and tankas.

I accused Poetry
of turning verse into dance.
It blushed a wondrous crimson.
It spun on tiptoe and left the stage.

Poetry danced a three minute verse
for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Test Of Time

Dora sat writing poems with a fountain pen.
She wrote outside during a thunderstorm.
The armchair poets would unplug their computers.
The blood and guts poets would thrust their fountain pens skyward.

Dora’s three legged dog balanced comfortably.
Dora rescued the dog from the people who ran her over.
The people who ran her over loved her and owned her.
The dog was happy to be freed from their lazy love.

The dog refused to fear thunder and lightning.
Dora had taught the dog to count between flash and boom.
The dog calculated distance, thus threat.
She hobbled inside when the count got down to two.

Dora will teach the dog to write poetry next.
Three legged poetry will stand the test of time.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul moves his back muscles
in a manner he thinks will grow wings.
He checks the mirror each morning.
He blows no smoke on his torso.

Paul spends an hour each day
meditating on the blue sky wanting it—
the wings. Not to emphasize his angelic nature,
but to pursue his wish to soar on thermals.

He studies the animated motions of the dinosaurs
that turned into the first birds
to get the arm movements correct to build muscle,
while he pictures his body hair evolving into feathers.

When honesty frosts the mirror, it tells him
his wings will be as flightless as the emu’s.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Calico Dress

A needle draws its path through flesh.
A wound closes as drying blood seals the seam.
A pill is prescribed for the pain.
A hunger best unfed says, No, to the script.

The night closes in on monitorial beeps.
The bed bends so the sleepless reclines.
The bedside backpack contains the handmade doll for a niece.
Bruises that blue in the dark won’t be seen until morning.

Scrubs replace clothes cut from a body.
Eyes swollen with their namesake shading blur vision.
Heartbeat settles comfortably into the chest cavity.
Wheelchair ride to checkout, a hailed cab.

Near empty wallet halts the cab ride a mile from home.
The cabby delivers to front door off meter.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


This poem contains elements that are true to myself and true to another. It is a combined story poem.

An acquaintance who was in heroine recovery was prescribed opioids to kill the pain of a broken bone and bruises after getting mugged. He turned the pills down and took extra strength aspirin instead.

My element is the ride home from the ER in a cab with only $3 to my name and no cash in the house. I told the cabby to drop me off when the $3 was used up, which would have left me 7 blocks from my apartment. The driver was kind enough to turn the meter off and deliver me to the front door of my apartment building. Also, my backpack carried the doll for a friend’s daughter.

I sometimes debate with myself about appropriating other people’s stories into my poems and how I combine or stretch the truth of experience to write an interesting poem that expresses a truth. No one asks if Rumi’s writing is totally truthful. So the debate goes on.

Love & Light



The river is empty.
Empty of water, I mean.
Do the river bed and banks
retain their meaning?

The sky is clear.
Clear of clouds, I mean.
Did the sky steal the river
and blow this town heading east?

The old man is dead.
There is no love in his heart, I mean.
Do his skin and flesh
retain his soul under these circumstances?

A young couple sitting at a cafe table
text each other.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Location Sonnet

I may claim I moved off the reservation when I reached my majority, if you consider a ninety-eight percent republican Chicago suburb a reservation.

During my university semester in Germany, the locals refused to let me speak Auf Deutsch, so they might practice their English.

During that same semester, museum personnel misread my misprinted university ID card as Oxford instead of Rockford—I have dropped my R’s ever since, seeking to duplicate the benefits of misperception.

On our flight back to the U. S., a blizzard blanketed the midwest and east coast, so we were put in a holding pattern over the Atlantic. The plane got so small by the eighteenth hour, a hamster would not fit in that metallic tube.

I purchased my first cellphone when I lived outside Port Angeles, Washington. I walked to the top of the north hill overlooking the ocean to receive a signal.

When I lived in Taos, New Mexico there was no such thing as over-night delivery via Fed Ex or UPS or USPS. The family lawyers back in Chicago, despite their vast education and experience, could not fathom this.

I spent most of my one year living in Frederick, Maryland walking the Antietam battlefield. I cannot explain why I did not move to Sharpsburg, Maryland to shorten the commute.

Someday, in an effort to lose most of my sense of privilege, I think I should live in a location where I am the only white person for a hundred miles in all directions. Does such a place exist anymore?

Technically, as a white person, I am a minority in Albuquerque and in New Mexico as a whole. I never once felt minor.

Every summer day when the Albuquerque sunset paints the Sandia Mountains the watermelon color pattern that gave the mountains their Spanish name, I wonder why Nature fails to behave PC toward our African American citizens.

Albuquerque was named after Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 10th Duke of Alburquerque. I like to believe they dropped the first R for my benefit.

Albuquerque is nicknamed the Duke City. The Duke never visited.

In Albuquerque you learn the lovesick sound of roadrunners calling for a mate. At your most lonely, you never sounded that bad off, even with six pints of beer spilling your desperation on someone sitting next to you at the bar.

Twelve years in Albuquerque with its many Indian casinos on the city outskirts and I have never visited one to place a single wager. My biggest payoff on my Albuquerque bet was meeting Dianne.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Happy Independence Day (US) to you all. I trust you have lined up a joyous way of celebrating the 4th with plenty of friends of family no matter how much star spangled fireworks and festivities are in your day.

Sherman Alexie broadened my definition of a sonnet. I recommend reading his books whether poetry or novels.

My old (pre-Dianne) habit was to move every 1 to 4 years (usually 3 years) to a new location to explore the geography, history and culture. I am convinced the wanderlust had roots in tragedy with both searching and avoiding being part of the trauma process. Along the way I met a lot of really fantastic people, walked a lot of miles of trails, bicycled over 16,000 road miles, and learned I cannot adjust myself to fit in all cultures in the USA.

My tally is 9 states I have lived in. My favorite state is being in love with Dianne. New Mexico for all its poor ratings (48th, 49th or 50th in many government state rankings, such as education), is a beautiful place to live in with a great diversity of people. The only place I met a greater diversity was Washington D.C., especially on the National Mall with its tourists and locals and foreign & domestic politicians.

Love & Light