After A War

After a war
mothers walk
the underworld
to retrieve
their sons
and daughters.

But they
do not look
the same
as they did
when alive.

Empty hands
return with tears
from shallow
ponds and
the deepest lake.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Her Laughter

Thirty-three hundred patty-cakes
bounce my sleep.

The murmurs of an absent child
creak the staircase until dawn.

The iron nails securing my spine
flake a glittering rust.

It is hard to repair the pump
that primes my eyes for tears,

while the ghost in my attic
constricts my throat with her laughter.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


The monsters that roam your unconscious
were once real in the guise of friends or family.

You may have an anxiety closet
or fear the underside of your bed,

but that is the mind’s manifestation
of buried images from silent era films.

Silence from before your vocabulary developed
or grew large enough to express something insidious

like the misplaced hand that steals the spine
or a common action diverted into the perverse.

Your fluttering eyelids over our coffee cup conversation
confirms emotional bruises and illicit fingerprints.

The secrets you keep are secret only in detail.
Violence without definition, without time stamp or witness.

As your body twists muscles in a squirm
your secrets wring an old blackened torment outward.

I recognize your avoidance techniques.
I realize your emotional heart stopped and blood turned cold.

Though it is plain your ears are not deaf,
my It’s over and Let it go fail to vibrate the ear drum,

to penetrate deep to the living memory
that retains the trespass as clear and present danger.

A moment of relief crosses your eyes
as we switch our talk to the playoffs

and other subjects that leave tears
far from the corners of your eyes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney