Top Of My Right Ear

We practice
some body contortions
and some simple positions
so our scars press
against each other
with the understanding
those pale lines
represent us
at our most open,
raw and vulnerable.

Taking turns
our tongues
tell our scars’ stories
even if the telling
drops our words
into whispers.

With our bare fingers,
we practice
learning this odd
raised-skin Braille
so we may decipher
the words that never
find their way
to our tongues
and so, by chance,
our fingers may recognize
and translate the pain
that never broke skin.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

North Face

Paul cries.
His tears strike his palms like rolling thunder.
Black motes pock his life line.

The clouded sky echoes his sentiment.
Lightning crowns the mountains.
Electric thorns seeking Jesus.

Paul’s nostrils fill with ozone,
the crisp of a struck ponderosa,
the sap seared to carbon.

He gasps for air between sobs.
He claws the sky seeking purchase.
This letting go shreds him.

Four now. The disassociations.
The angels between sheets of rain.
The snow angel of his prostrate flailing.

He throws rocks and fists at his other selves.
A puncher’s chance.
A knockout blow.

Trauma drunk. He staggers to the tree line.
Dark limbs embrace warmer air.
Alders peel the thunder of its crash.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul saw a boy he never knew.
A turn-around memory
of an instant before shadow
accelerated a blur and mist.
No personal definition—
hair color or eye color or name.
Just a red and white striped t-shirt
and pale skin with freckles.

No more detail arrives from a re-collection
of long ago moments,
no matter how Paul tries to assemble them,
jigsaw them, collage them.

Always his efforts feel the disruption
of the passing train’s silvery blur,
squealing steel wheels grating the track
the disorientation skew
of his battering heartbeat bulging veins,
upturned eyes view the top of his cloudy head,
the ground rushing up to cradle him.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

All That Happened Happened

As much as I do not miss my mother,
I am persuaded, in spite of her faults,
to the best of her ability, she was a good person.

I have some understanding of trauma
and how it limits a soul,
especially when forward
is deemed the proper investment
of time and effort.

Though I was subjected to…

To form accurate conclusions
when you view me,
an intergenerational story
must be inspected in detail
before convictions, if any,
find their way into sentences.

For my own good
answers must come into focus
from the shrouded past,
resolve my own traumas’
subservient emotions,
thus remove their leaden influences
from the energetic day.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney