Lack of Patriotism

The dead lived here once.
Their ghosts are quiet and content.

This is the garden they tended.
Here stands the stonewall they built.

This chimney has three hundred years practice
channeling smoke from fire to sky.

There above the hearth rests a musket
once wielded in the cause of liberty.

When I fetch candles from the pantry
I brush against all those ghostly hands fetching candles.

But I am the first in the line to drink tea.
I feel those departed coffee drinkers frown in disgust.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Death Dropped By for Tea

Death’s face and body kept shifting
man to woman—woman to man.

There was something of Van Gogh
in his vestments.

She brought her own sunlight
to illuminate her face.

It was late afternoon Taos light—
honey colored and thick.

There was not much conversation.
Death listened through ear buds to Marie Baptiste.

When the song ended Death asked
if I would play a game of chess.

I thought how Seventh Seal of him
and a second later she opened the Queen’s gambit.

As the turns move pieces across the board
I wonder how Death had time for this leisure.

As he moved his knight
to capture my bishop, she said

The four apocalypse riders
saddle their horses

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

English Breakfast

Snow collected outside the window
as frost collected on the inside.

I thought there was a law
the prevented the heat being turned off in winter.

But it might have been that backhoe
that severed a gas line affected this house.

A fire burns in the fire place
and I learn to sleep with flickering light

and a sleeping bag unrolled
on the spark singed carpet.

It is a matter of too hot facing the fire
and too cold facing away.

There is the drip drip drip of the faucet
intentionally running so the pipes won’t freeze

in case I figure out how to heat water
for my morning tea.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Four A. M.

When Paul
told me
Four A.M.
came early
I pictured it
at the house
at Three Fifty-Two
and ringing
the doorbell
before either of us
had a cup
of tea
or heard
the first
from a thrasher.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Blank Gun Silencer

Paul woke up Early on Tuesday.
He poured Early a cup of tea.

Early borrowed Paul’s car for errands
and stopped for scones.

Early returned home to find Paul
reading Blank Gun Silencer.

Paul returned his teacup
to the coffee table but missed the coaster.

Breadcrumbs littered the polished wood
around as well as on top of the ceramic dish.

As lunchtime approached, Early
stopped being himself, paused,

looked out the kitchen window
as a black cat stalked a roadrunner.

Paul felt sure this was a poetic metaphor
for the inevitable struggle.

The roadrunner easily evaded the cat,
leaping to the top of the fence.

Early faded out of existence
as the second hand swept toward noon.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


The latest newspaper
sits on Paul’s breakfast table.

Its headline is blank.
All the stories are below the fold.

Now that it is here
this dreamed of day shakes him.

He never expected to be frightened
by the blank page.

But there it is. No news
is not good news it seems.

The stories below the fold
are so saccharine

that Paul quits reading each story
after a few lines.

What happened to the world he knew?
How will his type-A behavior be interpreted now?

Can this still be America
without a gruesome headline

to evoke our chosen and embraced
Darwinian socio-economic struggles?

At least his blueberry scone remains constant.
But, his coffee is now black tea.

And he wears a wool suit on Saturday.
This is all too civilized.

Where are his murderers and rapists?
Why is he hearing castanets instead of gunfire?

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Breath Mint Tin

Milkweed butterflies.
Tartan picnic.
A flower petal dress.

A girl sips tea with dolls.

Her innocent lips.
Her mouth says, open.
No sesame. No forty thieves.

A girl locates a half smoked cigarette.

Hidden in the dirt.
Behind the milkweed
as she sought stones to serve as teacakes.

A girl picks up pieces of a broken promise.

Her fingers run the puzzling edges.
Her fingers peel the white paper.
Tobacco oils stain her fingertips.

A girl pinches her nose.

She traffic-cops her dolls.
There are seven intersections between here
and her bedroom.

A girl sets the paper and tobacco down.

Adjacent to her mother’s lipstick.
Between two citrus scented candles.
On top of her Altoids tin.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Home Fries

In the intersection
outside of the crosswalk
two stray socks,
one gray with red strips,
one white with goldenrod toes,
and a small pair of overalls
printed with Winnie the Pooh
and other characters
from the Hundred Acre Wood
displayed a single set
of tread marks
as traffic grew thicker,
faster and deeper
than my desire
to tidy up the asphalt
as I crossed with the light
on my way for tea,
eggs over medium
and home fries.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


On 23 December this poem occurred on my 2.5 mile walk to the cafe that I use as my poetry office. On this walk, usually the same route each time, I regularly find clothes that are left behind on the sidewalk or in the street gutter or the crosswalk. It gives me the impression that getting one’s clothes safely to the laundromat and back home is not an easy chore. I hope it is not a case of a homeless person trying to keep track of everything they own in a shopping cart and losing part of it. That would make the loss of a few items a substantial loss.

When it comes to homelessness, I find I am more angry with Business over Government. During a period of record corporate profits the nation has one of its highest homeless populations. In my mind, because they have the money, those businesses should be hiring extra people so less folks are homeless. All of the major religions tell their followers to aid the poor. I understand there are places in California (LA and SF) where rents are so high that people working full time become homeless when a little adversity hits their lives.

I think many people forget that profit is not a goal or an end. It is a measure. It is an incomplete measure, because it does not take into account the quality of life of all the people who work in the business or interact with the business. Imagine if Google reduced its profit by 100 million dollars to employ an extra 20,000 people at a good wage. Google would still be profitable and a viable business and it would improve the lives of so many people. I believe conscientious investors would be accept the slightly lower dividend for a better country, city, or neighborhood.

I wonder how any of us would like an extra $100 of dividends if it came at the cost of 10,000 people being laid off. As an investor and a conscientious human what would that make me to profit from the pain of others? I do my best to invest responsibly on social and environmental issues.

All this thinking from two socks and a small pair of overalls outside a crosswalk on a busy street’s asphalt. Hmmmm.

Hey. Do the small things that make a difference today. You know: smile, say please and thank you, and et cetera.

Love & Light.