When Lori cries
the temperature of the air rises
and gains a hint of lilacs.

But the air refuses
to carry the sound of her crying
more than three feet.

Lori is so full of sadness.
Her body tries to empty
that fullness

but her sadness
sends spring flowers
to an unmarked gravesite.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Photo Optics

Whenever Paul viewed photos
he saw the subjects pulse with life
or lay perfectly still in death.

This worked for both people and animals.
It worked for forests but not individual trees.
Mountains always pulsed.

Once when looking through a family album
he saw his uncle’s photo pulse irregularly
then become still.

The family buried the uncle a week later
in a sluggish ceremony with blue filters
to accentuate the somber mood.

No cameras recorded the wailing
the simple headstone
or any of the muttered blessings.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


A couple Fridays ago, my turn at being the Poet in the Library took place. This reading series was organized by Albuquerque poet laureate Mary Oishi. The reading was filmed and posted to YouTube. To view it click here.


I painted a stone black
and called it night.

I wrote the word good on it
once the black paint dried.

I thought of throwing it through
your window.

I asked fireflies to carry it through
your open window.

I took firefly hostages
in a mason jar.

No negotiator arrived
to hear my terms.

I set the hostages free
and pocketed the stone.

You sleepwalked out of your room
but not out of your house.

I saw you downstairs in the kitchen
and hoped you woke

for more than an appetite
for comfort food.

You returned upstairs
when I stepped between the geraniums.

I organized six snails
and pointed them toward your door.

I placed the black rock upon their shells
after I bribed them with beer.

Three nights later and you had not yet
received my message.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shore Turn

We walked down to the beach.
A dozen whales lay out of the water.

The carrion birds told us
they were not alive.

The sadness of it all
unlocked something inside us.

We were only four in number.
We walked into the surf.

We unzipped our skins.
We swam out of the bay as whales.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The blue woman
wore white
with exposed shoulders
ankles and bare feet.

She lifted her arms
in musical notation
to conduct the thunder
like a symphony.

The crown of the open hill
where she stood
exposed domed granite
and sparse grasses.

As the storm advanced
across the valley floor
the thunder echoed
and reverberated its approach.

The electric blue lightning
leapt cloud to cloud
superheating the air
and expanding it rapidly.

The blue woman snatched
a shock wave up in her left hand
and used it like a lasso
to hold the storm over her fields.

She swiftly yanked the improvised cord
to squeeze the cloud into rain
but it groaned like her fat uncle
trying to button his blue jeans to no effect.

The storm bucked and kicked
and tossed its horns
like a plains buffalo
instead of an open range steer.

She recognized the futility
of trying to domesticate the storm
and set it loose
to speed northeast.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Factoring For X

Paul buried himself in fallen leaves.
He tried to capture something.
He tried to recapture his youth.
Traces of it existed in this action.

He played with the thought
if he fell asleep under the pile of leaves
he would wake up
at seven or eight years old.

Paul napped a little.
Mostly he dreamt his childhood.
The happy parts and imagination.
When there was a map and X marked the spot.

He emerged from the pile of leaves.
Paul reached up and drank a cup of the Milky Way.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dear Desert

What I took
as stretch marks
you bear on
your belly
from birthing
the human race
was cracked
age lines
discolored with
sun spots
tectonic faults.

Beautiful still
in spite of
or because of
the danger
you might
once more
but this time
with sandhill cranes
to sound
the recall
so you may
return us
to a molten state
and reshape
humanity anew.

The bees
crawling from
the chollas’
magenta blooms
means you remain
sweet on us.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Oh The Places That You’ll Go

Paul raises more curtains
than his house possesses.

It requires him to open more doors
than neighborhood walls hang.

All of this effort to help Ellie
shatter a glass ceiling or two

with nothing more than a couple
of rose petals and crown of rose thorns.

It is not woke culture.
It is not cancel culture.

It is giving a friend a leg up
to combat systemic inequalities.

It is a little bit breaking and entering
to let natural light shine in.

It is paying it forward.
It is payback for the factory floor.

It is a risk-benefit analysis put in play.
It is a piñata bottom line.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The title is a direct take from Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go, which is a popular graduation present for parents to give their children entering adulthood. I mean to say I received my copy after university graduation a long time ago.

Going Home From The Park

I pulled a robin from my throat.
I set it in my child’s red wagon.

My child sat next to the robin red breast
in the red wagon.

She petted the bird like it was a dog.
The robin rolled over for a belly scratch.

I pulled the red wagon out of the parking place
and into a parade.

A parade bereft of clowns.
The parade marshaled several marching bands.

I pulled the red wagon into line
behind the tuba players.

Alabama. Crimson Tide. Um-pah! Um-pah!
Roll Tide. Roll down the street.

The tuba players pushed milky white notes
out of their brass instruments.

Their swiveling marching routine
blended the notes into an aural milkshake.

My child in the red wagon clapped.
She gulped down the music.

The robin sang in competition
rather than in harmony.

When the parade reached our apartment
I bent-arm signaled a right turn.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul labels the night Bad.
The night brushes off the label.

The label floats on the wind
until the wind drops it onto a patch of ground.

The label sticks to the grass.
It turns the grass black as night.

The earth opens up in that spot
and an oozing tar pit appears.

This is an effort by the earth
to conceal the label.

Covering the label Bad in tar
so it cannot be read by passersby.

Paul happens by the tar pit.
It bubbles and spits some tar on his favorite shirt.

Abstractly the tar-spatter spells out
the word Bad on Paul’s shirt.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney