Time Out

Paul and Lori took a week apart.
They knew they would reassemble it later.

Each of them traveled light.
One carry-on piece of luggage each.

Both drove in different directions.
They switched directions to return home.

Each documented
the changing color of the highway.

Paul drove out of green-chili-cheeseburger country.
Lori left chocolate behind in the house.

They drove in search of an epiphany.
Rand McNally did not mark those as points of interest.

Both had the habit of stopping
at roadside historical markers.

Their tires never touched
an interstate highway.

They returned home at the same time
without the aid of GPS synchronicity.

They found the disassembled week
where they left it on the kitchen table.

Even though they were tired from their travels
they worked to midnight reassembling it.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


For the seventh cavalry
the turnpike to heaven
passes Muskogee
and the parade of coffins
look like soapbox derby racers
a little short on paint.

Charon operates
the tollbooth
for the bridge span
over the Arkansas River
to finance a meeting hall
in a retired steamboat
for all the soldiers’ widows
in a state of mental imbalance
due to loneliness.

Four of those women
play Mozart and Bach
as a string quartet
from sheet music
on the front bow of the ship
near where new women
join the floating refuge
from brass bugle calls
written by Dan Butterfield.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wall Street

A raccoon dines in candle light.
It eats corn on the cob rotated in its two hands.

Its nose and whiskers are greased with butter.
Salt grains decorate the kernels.

What in the dark I took as
the raccoon’s gigantic balls

are two dark grey rubber balls
that were thrown in to the trash by an unknown.

The raccoon is the center of my attention
until it wonders off

out of the kerosene lamp light
and away with an old New York Times

tucked under one arm
so it may check its retirement investments.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Half Asleep from a Late Afternoon Nap

A long gray strand of God’s hair
snakes across the dining room table
out of the chicken casserole.

A portrait of Sequoia sits on the fireplace mantel
with his alphabet inscribed as a paper frame
within the wooden frame.

A bee that inadvertently flew into the house
now bangs all his buzz
on the picture window viewing the terraced garden.

The gray strand of hair is twenty-two feet long
that is why I ascribe it to God
and not grandfather or grandmother.

My Apple computer products
contain the Cherokee font package
as I begin to learn Sequoia’s native language.

I open the door then use my hand against the window
to guide the bee to freedom and home
only to let four flies in.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Three Giant Steps

The dark told me a story about my father.
How he went to where a meteor fell.
Not to the place where it hit the ground.
But to the place it streaked across the sky.

My father went there to sew up the rip in the sky.
He found stationary lightning
awaiting a tornado’s passage below it
because it did not wish to compete for attention.

He thought of wielding the lighting as his own.
He thought better of that thought
and left the lightning to its own decisions.
It shot downward and split an apple tree.

Finding no rip to sew my father returned from the sky.
He first touched his foot on a mountain.
He second touched his foot on the river below the mountain.
His third stopped on the top doorstep.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Missouri Compromised

A grasshopper swam
traveled something like
single file
and ate their way
across US lawns
and prairie
so a single line
in the country’s grass
stood out
when astronauts
looked down
from the international
space station.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


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

I Started Dying a Long Time Ago But I am a Slow Learner

Since I reached puberty
Doctors spoke to me more about
tombstones rather than medicine.

They suggested something simple
like the white marble of Arlington
instead of angelic statuary.

Others suggested fire.
I think those doctors wished to destroy
the chemical footprint

they placed in my body
with copious prescriptions
that had little to no effect.

I have been dying since
four-fifty-one when I started writing this
but in tiny increments

that delay the inevitable
and provide me an opportunity
to sell one investment or another

to purchase a plane ticket to Hawaii
for some tropical sun and a chance
for you to practice your grieving all alone.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Not Sunday

Lori walks through the city.
She carries kind words
instead of the Bible.

She carries a hot sauce bottle
in one of her coat pockets
in case street vender food requires it.

Lori stands on top of a fire hydrant
with her extraordinary balance.
She dispenses kind words from there.

Her kind words are so right on
that street preachers stop
to listen and ask for blessings.

One day the fire department
and three of its trucks arrived
and required use of their hydrant.

Lori was in the middle of distributing kind words
and made the decision
it was kinder to let the firemen do their work

than to finish dispensing kind words.
She jumped down from the hydrant
and sat among the street preachers

to watch the firemen work.
They put out a blaze in record time.
No one actually times and records

firemen working
when they could be watching
the flames consume the Bible shop.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lost Adjective

We designated twenty-four June
as Paul’s birthday
since he was never born
but sprang into existence
from the frontal lobe
of an anonymous
stroke victim
in its last act of being
in charge and in control.

An unwanted circumstance
of this creative process
is that Paul walks
with that man’s footsteps
whose sounds
are a millisecond off
Paul’s actual steps.

This discrepancy creates
a confusion bubble
around Paul when he walks.

We hold all
of our deeper conversations
while sitting
at a coffee shop table.

Normally I would
walk with someone
while discussing
deeper topics
especially among trees
on the mountain
where the dead
have little ability
to reach up from the grave
and snatch words
out of sentences
just as they leave the lips.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney