Message From On High

Do the dead
pardon us
for our trespass
against them
during their lives?

And for speaking
ill of them
after they
are gone
to memory’s pasture?

The postal service
a postcard
from my father
fifty-two years late.

It was a photo
of Aspen, Colorado
and its snow glossed
with a blurred

blue note
in his poor
that I could not

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Bicycling My Old Community

It was a shock
to see the adobe brick
was removed from the ruin
and to see a new structure
plastered and brightly painted.

The old wrought iron fence
with its spear-like projections
lay in a heap waiting
for workers to haul it
to the metal recycling site.

My eyes took it all in,
especially the checkerboard
tiled patio
that I was not sure
was true to the old ways
but looked trippy
for dancing.

A sign with pictures
of the two women
outlined the reclamation
of this historic building
and their plans to make it
an events center.

The sign spelled out
their names
and it was easy to tell
they were not from around here.
I wondered how this trespass
upon our mountain town
would go over with the families
whose influence
was revered like royalty
long before the Treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Last Call

Paul presses the tart O of his kiss
against a soft cheek
then recoils from the sharp slap
that raises a welt upon his face.

His tongue tastes the smoke
released from her resentment.
A flame flashes as his hand
refuses to let go her shirt sleeve.

He starts to pull her back
for round two with better aim,
but a low blow crumples his
bloated beer body.

Paul feels lumber hands
heft him as easy as an axe.
The door opens to neon, the moon,
the toss, the skid on icy concrete.

Immediate couples skirt
his sidewalk bruising
and brush against a blue Ford
as they retreat to the nearest home.

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