Several floors below heaven
a passing train startles Paul awake.
His cotton mouth misspeaks
the planet’s name to a oompah band’s brass.
This unintentional misdirection
opens a seam in the universe to another
where twenty-seven children
wear cardigans and sob at the direction
of an orchestra conductor
lifting a photogenic baton.
Paul wets his face at a hands-free faucet
while portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte
and Thomas Jefferson eye each other
from adjacent sides of the mirror.
Paul notices his doll-skin pallor.
He thinks this a clue to contact his therapist.
But is afraid to interrupt happy hour
half way around the globe.
As he towels water off his face
a gunmetal quote appears on the mirror’s surface
as a cloud wishing thunder
not Smith & Wesson shots fired in a hold up
of the morning train’s mail car
as it clickity-clacks out of Dodge City, Kansas.
copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney
I gave you my best self.
It was a first generation copy of my best self.
The original burst into flame
in my therapist’s office.
Good thing I make a back up
every ten days, overwriting the old backup.
It was the best gift I could think to give you.
I thought it would energize our relationship.
If photos recorded how we would be
ten minutes into the future,
each photo would show us taking a new photo.
Obsessed with the future, we’d forget to live in the present.
Imagine me feeding you a strawberry
slathered with whip cream.
I would do it if that would focus us
on that instant together without tangents or drift.
We would learn to tell time to shove off,
so a romantic afternoon
trickled into an evening, a sunset—
us listening to each other like never before.
copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney
on the devil.
He dressed himself
in yellow mustard,
egg yoke and paprika.
She prefers him
in snake form
a tree limb
in the guise
about the trauma
rag doll demonstrations—
snow white ghosts
too many years
in closets scared
by the vast salt flats
from the doorframe
under a sky
of circling vultures
knowing Los Alamos
is up to something,
but not what
when they call
on the Trinity.
copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney