Mr. Hays

Mr. Hays taught remedial English.
That was Glenbard West high school.
He taught us to balance our checkbooks
before we had bank accounts.
He taught us to wash laundry properly
instead of deconstruct Melville’s Moby Dick.
He encouraged us to take cooking classes
so even as bachelors we would eat right.

He taught us other things to prepare us
for the real world of having only a high school diploma.
We never learned to write a haiku,
but we all had professional looking resumes.
I was the remedial oddball,
who went on to university to earn a higher degree.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

Dianne pointed out that the word bachelors excludes girls. The remedial English class this poem refers to, my Junior year English class, was a dozen teen boys. No girls. The girls were smart enough or so diligent at homework that they remained in regular English classes.

As far as knowledge learned in high school that helped me in the real world, the stuff Mr. Hays taught us in remedial English and Algebra I & II are the things I found most useful in my adult life. Thanks Mr. Hays. Thanks Mr. Miller for the Algebra.

Porch Swing

I try.
I try hard.
I try hard to remember.
I try hard to remember not to forget.

Today is my four thousandth
two hundred and seventy-second
day of loving you.
That is my longest streak until tomorrow.

Serendipity was our matchmaker.
Or God if you prefer.
Or the eclipsing moon you watched
out in your yard when I walked by.

There are beautiful birds in the cholla.
The front porch needs sweeping.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Something Hard

Paul began a war.
He began it by breaking a rule.
He bent the rule first around a column.
He measured the column for consistency.

The rule broke on a column
one inch too long in circumference.
The stonemason had only the one rule.
Paul broke it.

The stonemason swung his hammer
to break Paul’s head.
Paul saw it coming.
He dodged in time to save his head.

The swung hammer sang its desire
to impact something hard.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Heirloom

I witnessed the hanging tree
and the lynching ghosts
a few miles from the family farm
on a beat-up picture postcard.

Its commercialization curses the cropland.
Such community revelations
sear a peculiar brand on sons and daughters.
Petty political purity corrodes every plow.

Such events require a prudent family
animated by the fear of retaliation,
who employ wile and manipulation
instead of Christian ethics.

Grandfather, the January snows melt
to reveal what it once covered up.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lamb Of God

Where the arroyo ends
at a man-made berm
a tree sings the history of the mountain
its roots pull from the earth.

It sings the migration of atoms
and electrons from ground to sky.
And the natural chemical processes
altering substances.

The tree sings to attract those
who could make this spot a place of worship,
instead of a pause along a trail
that leads farther up the mountain.

It sings of a time when trees
shepherd the earth again.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Axed

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

Flap

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

Postscript

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

Kenneth