Yellow Mama Archives

Kenneth P. Gurney
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allan, T. N.
Allen, M. G.
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Arab, Bint
Augustyn, P. K.
Aymar, E. A.
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Bailey, Ashley
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Barber, Shannon
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Bayly, Karen
Baugh, Darlene
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Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
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Beckman, Paul
Benet, Esme
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Bennett, Charlie
Bennett, D. V.
Berg, Carly
Berman, Daniel
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Bickerstaff, Russ
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Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
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Boski, David
Bougger, Jason
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brooke, j
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Brown, Sam
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Cameron, W. B.
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Carver, Marc
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Clifton, Gary
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D., Jack
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Davis, Michael D.
Day, Holly
de Bruler, Connor
Degani, Gay
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Deming, Ruth Z.
Demmer, Calvin
De Neve, M. A.
Dennehy, John W.
DeVeau, Spencer
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Dobson, Melissa
Domenichini, John
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Doherty, Rachel
Dosser, Jeff
Doyle, John
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Dubal, Paul Michael
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Duschesneau, Pauline
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Eade, Kevin
Elliott, Garnett
Ellman, Neil
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Espinosa, Maria
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Farren, Jim
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Fillion, Tom
Fisher, Miles Ryan
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Francisco, Edward
Funk, Matthew C.
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Garvey, Kevin Z.
Gentile, Angelo
Genz, Brian
Giersbach, Walter
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Graham, Sam
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Halleck, Robert
Hamlin, Mason
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Harrington, Jim
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heimler, Heidi
Helmsley, Fiona
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Heslop, Karen
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Hill, Richard
Hivner, Christopher
Hockey, Matthew J.
Hogan, Andrew J.
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Howells, Ann
Hoy, J. L.
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huffman, A. J.
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Huskey, Jason L.
Irascible, Dr. I. M.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Keaton, David James
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Keshigian, Michael
Kevlock, Mark Joseph
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Knott, Anthony
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kovacs, Norbert
Kovacs, Sandor
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
Larkham, Jack
La Rosa, F. Michael
Leasure, Colt
Leatherwood, Roger
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
Lemieux, Michael
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lewis, LuAnn
Lifshin, Lyn
Liskey, Tom Darin
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyon, Hillary
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Malone, Joe
Mann, Aiki
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marrotti, Michael
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Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Chris
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McKim, Marci
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memi, Samantha
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Max
Minihan, Jeremiah
Montagna, Mitchel
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Morgan, Bill W.
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Ogurek, Douglas J.
O'Keefe, Sean
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Park, Jon
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Peralez, R.
Perez, Juan M.
Perez, Robert Aguon
Peterson, Ross
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Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
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Post, John
Powell, David
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Praseth, Ram
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Quinn, Frank
Rabas, Kevin
Ram, Sri
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Renney, Mark
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Rihlmann, Brian
Ritchie, Salvadore
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rose, Mandi
Rose, Mick
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Salinas, Alex
Sanders, Isabelle
Sanders, Sebnem
Santo, Heather
Savage, Jack
Sayles, Betty J.
Schauber, Karen
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
See, Tom
Sethi, Sanjeev
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Sheagren, Gerald E.
Shepherd, Robert
Shirey, D. L.
Short, John
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Simpson, Henry
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Small, Alan Edward
Smith, Brian J.
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
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Smith, Greg
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snethen, Daniel G.
Snoody, Elmore
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sparling, George
Spicer, David
Squirrell, William
Stanton, Henry G.
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Stoll, Don
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Tillman, Stephen
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Walters, Luke
Ward, Emma
Washburn, Joseph
Watt, Max
Weber, R.O.
Weil, Lester L.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Tabitha
Woodland, Francis
Young, Mark
Yuan, Changming
Zackel, Fred
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zee, Carly
Zimmerman, Thomas



                   Kenneth P. Gurney



I remember the coke addict

schizophrenic who either wanted

to give hand jobs to the boys

or kill the chickens.


Her practiced motion

wrung feathered necks

and detached heads

in the blink of an eye


and that repeated movement created

ceiling-splattering orgasms.


Regularly she removed her shirt

in group session to show her breast

and the scar where the other

use to reside


and spoke of the three white stones

carved with names and dates

in some far away field,

where thistles lay their colored heads

on manicured grass.


Somewhere, she

came to that ‘Y’ in the mind,

the main highway to the right,

the less traveled road to the left,

but she chose to hop the fence,

blaze a trail through the forest

where the claws that catch,

the jaws that bite,

still reside.




Not as Easy as It Looks


Kenneth P. Gurney



She holds his penis

in her hands

and aims for the bowl,

the hole in the white

ceramic, to hear

the tinkle of the stream

hit water, turn it

lemonade, darken to

amber, but lovemaking

last night clogged it,

shoots his water sideways

onto the dirty linoleum,

the off-white shower

throw rug, the sides

of the bath tub

and her quick reaction

only whips it about

‘s’ like, washes the walls

and the hem of her

nightgown hooked

on the back of the door,

marks more territory

than a hungry pack

of feral dogs

who just learned

where the pigs sty.





Oubliette Liberty


Kenneth Gurney




The woman on her knees

screams the black light silence

into oblivion, gasps, smiles

as the lash draws back

and a line of welts 

cross her ass.


At his goading, she dons

a blue wig, a black ponytail,

spiked heels.


She discards her name.

She abandons six senses 

of degradation,

as the titillating bit finds

her mouth, the harness’s

heavy leather scent 

fills her nose.


After pulling the rickshaw

around the block,

she lavishes favors

on plastic toys, on his foot,

on the raging whore

rising from her belly

as he pours chocolate sauce 

all over her torso.


Unwashed, she licks herself

like a cat, like a dog, 

her leg bent, foot resting

on the edge of a dry, porcelain tub.


Naked, near clean, she curls 

into a ball on a small rug,

rests at the foot of his bed, nods off,

wakes at the witching hour, 

sleep strangled by the sharp

inhalation of an orotund ghost.





Yoga and Pilates


Kenneth Gurney



At three o’clock, tea time, 

I discuss the possibility 

of sex and pregnancy 

with my beloved—

which may be an improper

conversation for tea time,

but it is just the two of us

and her eyes brightened

at the idea.


For the topic of sex

she reaches over

and removes my hat 

from my balding head,

exposes it to the sun

as we are on a bench

in the garden,

and drops the hat

for a demonstration

of an old cliché.


For the concept of pregnancy

we talk about the impossibility

of such a consequence

at our grave-side-of-fifty age 

even if we practice

all sorts of positions,

which are not new,

but long unused

and may be possible again

now that Yoga and Pilates

entered our lives

several months ago.







Kenneth Gurney



Lisa finds her clothes, gathers them,

sits at the end of the bed

and begins to put them on.


He stirs and turns his face toward

the neon flashing through the window

and sees her body in silhouette.


You love me.  He says.  It showed

in your moaning and gyrations,

the heady ecstasy of climax.


She slips her shirt over her head, 

shoulders, says, Don’t fool yourself.

It is only my dream of love projected.


He sits up, places pillows behind his back,

head.  You were helpless in your quivering.

I touched your heart.


Lisa stands, zips and buckles her jeans.  

Your loneliness causes you to lie to yourself.  

My wellbeing needs touch, sex, and I used you.


His mattress accepts the application of a single standard,

as she opens the door, blows him a kiss, 

then closes the door behind her.


Lisa steps from the staircase into a cool rain,

lets the cold slap of the wind brace her

as her heart returns a dream to its safe place.



Gold Dust



Kenneth Gurney



They say Lisa is the angel of the bedroom,

but not in such kind words

as brag passes itself around the pool table

awash in flashing neon.


Lisa says she likes to fuck

and thinks the comparison to rabbits

not brag at all, but a realistic comparison.


They say the plums are ripe for picking,

but they are haunted by images

that twist their sleep, that leave them feeling

alone in the company they keep.


Lisa does not argue that she is fallen fruit—

the wasps drunk from ingesting her hardened nectar,

but it makes them safe to pick up in her bare hands.


They say she keeps a minimalist painting

on the wall above her bed,

a broad plain with a thousand horizon lines

which define the sky.


Lisa paints a tally of her conquerors—

the conquistadors unaware 

that when they go, they depart El Dorado.




Into White


Kenneth P. Gurney



The young woman 

who dresses as if poverty afflicts her

and malnourishment attends her waifish figure

affixes a dead crow to a red cruciform

painted on a canvas

and calls it art,

all because she claims 

a boundary is crossed

and possibly redrawn—


which opens up all sorts of acts

political, societal, and violent

to new definitions 

of acceptability or artfulness.

And I readily wish

for girls to go topless

at all of the public beaches,

but boys might not be locked up

for all manners of rape

and licentious behaviors—


just as the maggot worms

crawl out from the crow’s feathers

and cause many 

of the artist’s admirers

to blanch.




Monkey See



Kenneth P. Gurney



The somber howler monkey behind the zoo cage bars 

absentmindedly stroked his erection

with a far-off look that implied boredom 

rather than stimulation

and since he was completely alone

with no view of female howler monkeys 

it is difficult for me to imagine

this was a display to impress

a possible mate with width or length.


Open mouthed, 

the high school field trip girls 

gawked until drool ran upon their chins,

spotted their shirts 

or slashed on their open-toed sandals

and startled them back toward civility.


Inquisitive children pointed fingers 

and their flabbergasted mothers 

never before uttered such a rampant stutter

or scurried out of an enclosed space so fast

while herding small heads.


Some guy with five or six days beard growth

and the smell of out of work axle grease despondency

whipped his out of his patch-laden blue jeans

and began a jerking motion

with his left hand.







Kenneth P. Gurney



This morning I found your glass pipe

and the small box where you keep matches

and a baggy.


It was in the shed on the two-by-four

with nails pounded in it

to hold the hedge trimmer

and the pruning sheers.


It was there next to three dead moths

and the echo of some pain

of which you never speak.


Last night in bed we pushed the stagnation

of our creative moods into the light of conversation

and realized there is no despair

driving us in to the need of distraction

and the requirement of a north star

to guide us on a journey is obsolete.


You said you think we found

our way into being human again:

as if we lost our humanity over the years

in the long lists of names and remembered faces

that experience dust and ash

that allowed our emotions to wrench

our muscles and breath when an old thought

flitted like a butterfly into view.


There was no humiliation

hiding in our artworks

or using it as a vehicle

that brought us to where we reside:

in love, in a strange world,

where the wine bottle remains corked

and the only smoke that enters your lungs

is the thick scent of sage

we planted last year.





Kenneth P. Gurney



We drank ourselves into sympathy,

but not into bed.  It is a narrow balance, that.


Sometimes, I said, I feel a pulse of rage

to kill the starlings as they flock.


It has nothing to do with the birds themselves,

but the birds they have chased away.


You said, you wish there was a special bank

to deposit unspent kindness so it earns interest


or can be lent out to others, at a small fee,

when doing some emotional start up.


We drank ourselves into sympathy,

but not into bed.  It is a narrow balance, that.


Sometimes, you said, you wish there were death squads

to kill the aesthetically unpleasing—


you know, the people who ….  And I ticked off

seven out of ten annoyances on your list.


I said, I wondered if there is a warehouse

that stores all the unlaughed merriment


and if people can order chortles, giggles, guffaws

and tee-hees through their on-line twitter accounts.


We drank ourselves into sympathy,

but not into bed—we barely made it as far as the car


before our tongues intertwined

and fingers fumbled with buttons.




Willow Raft


by Kenneth Gurney



When the ferryman arrives

across an ocean of daffodils

breaking thru the last remaining snow.

His slow boat out of this earth

rocks like the gentle sway

of a mother’s womb

as she walks to market.


And the moist warmth

of the flowered-air hums

a million bees’ wings in flight,

the residual vibration

of the big bang

or the steady Om uttered

and heard through the skin

as a mother chooses

fruit and vegetables

for her basket.





Habitual Inability


by Kenneth Gurney



My inability to astound others

sometimes depresses me

into eating an extra bar of dark chocolate

or painting an artistic expression

of an irrational number

such as Pi.


Somewhere, infinity does find an end,

or, at least, the illusion of an end

out of simple good manners

for those of us who are mortal.


It must or I fear infinity repeats itself,

like myself walking in a circle,

but being unaware it is a cycle

as the amount of change

is not enough for a human’s perception

to determine the change at close range.


Close range: the distance

two people are apart when they kiss

measured in the heat of their passion

or the depth of their love.


There are no visual cues

for me to use as a reference point,

not even the stain of red

from her kiss upon my lips—

not, that is, without a mirror

which does not give a true reflection

but distorts with slight curves

and inversions.


Here I am, walking the dark night,

as a clamorous wind

blows an inkish storm over the stars

to blot out any navigation

to the realm of sleep.



Decided It Was Not Important


by Kenneth P. Gurney



I remember when the milkman

placed quart-sized glass milk bottles

in a box just outside our door each morning.

Mother was always first to the box

and she took a spoon

to skim the cream off the top.

My father drank his coffee black

and read the newspaper

oblivious to this perpetual reenactment

of divine life and rebirth.


My father built a bookcase

and placed it at the end of the hallway

to hold the Encyclopedia Britannica

which was referenced for the next twenty years

to resolve intellectual family disputes

about facts and figures.


My mother loved a Depression-era lithograph

of a man peering over a chessboard,

but she never learned to play chess,

or checkers, but was excellent

at solving crossword puzzles.


I knew September school approached

when mother took me to purchase

black leather shoes

and Summer break approached

when she took me to purchase

white canvas tennis shoes.


My mother was five foot five.

My father was five foot six.

When my teen growth spurt ended

I was six feet five inches tall.


One day looking through old photo albums

I realized that five generations of my family

had black hair, while mine was the lightest blond.

That is the day I began to wonder

more about our milkman

and why home delivery stopped

when I was eight.



On the Tip of my Tongue


by Kenneth P. Gurney



The three of us drink chartreuse

in a bar, after a ball game,

and are called snobby

by many of the team-logo beer swillers—

maybe they are right,

since our conversation

centers around Brueghel’s

use of red for the plowman’s shirt

in his Icarus painting

and how the flowers grow in Flanders

this time of year.


Annie slouches a little

affected quite quickly by the fermented herbs

and Kimberly rarely lifts her glass

and, even then, only takes the slightest sip

of the beverage that named a color.


I was fine after one,

but a second drink

puts me into long lectures

of Grant’s overland campaign

with quotes from Rhea’s four-volume set

and before I know it

my only audience is the napkin holder

because you girls disappeared

into the celebratory laughter

of a playoff victory

and attached yourselves to the arms

of two baseball somebodies

I should recognize from the sporting news.




Written Upon an Early Snow


by Kenneth Gurney



It is gone now: the summer so hot and dry

and all we did was complain.


Here we are on All Hallow’s Eve

longing for the heat to keep old bones warm.


I told you once that macaroni is not a pasta

in the Yankee Doodle sense.


But you forget such things

and I cannot blame you as you do not care


if we say “She died.” or “She is dead.”

because she is not here, at least,


not in the physical sense

and, in an hour, not in the spiritual, either.


Ah!  There it is.  You feel the warm breath

of a door opening and it is so unlike


the smell of death that you say:

I taste mint on the roof of my mouth.


If you listen closely, with your third ear

it may be said, you will hear


the calming woodwinds of the faerie band

as they settle your memories of the daughter


whose name you have refused to speak

since the ground filled in above her.


I, too, watch the red leaf as it flutters to the ground.

Say goodbye now to your sorrow


as, with closed eyes, you spy the dead

traverse the honey light beyond the veil.



Last Flower


by Kenneth P. Gurney



Some fool inserts his despair

into the subway token machine

and passes to the deeper regions

where the damp darkness

scratches his face.


He wears a faded olive drab army surplus jacket.

Written in a black Sharpie upon the back

are the words: PUSH ME. 

And he toes the line of steel-coated concrete

and the nothingness above the rails.


He carries in his pocket an assortment of pills

and a thousand snapshots of a nervous war

he brought home from the front lines

across an enigmatic ocean.


The dying scream at him

stuck where time fractured

and the universal clock’s gears halted

inside that bearingless part of him.


He stumbles through an old joke

overheard in the gathering rush

of people for the subway trains

and the crying baby nearby

is something that must be silenced for safety.


Though he patiently waits

as the tide of humanity surges around him

and the whoosh of trains flutter his hair,

no one follows his directive,

no one draws him away from the edge.


He looks up past the solid sky

with evenly-placed pointless stars

and asks his shattered divinity

to carry him past an event horizon,

so he may become a distant figure

some folksinger chords.





by Kenneth P. Gurney



There was a time

when the whole world existed

in the act of shagging fly balls

on the sloped outfield

near the old gymnasium

after school studies ended

in a meadow-like field

where the clover

attracted hordes

of honey bees

and my bare feet

seemed heavenly guided

in order to catch

every hit ball

and miss stepping on

every pollen-laden bee.



by Kenneth P. Gurney


It is the manner of your yes

that suggests a loneliness

that really means, Please hold me

because the earth called my name

and prepared a place for me to sleep

within its embrace.


And though you claim a sadness

relative to the deaths of small animals

and large that never make it

to the opposite side of the road,

I see in your misted eyes

all the harbor fog

and the ferry slowly seeking the pier

to disgorge its passengers

whether in cars or on foot.


It is the manner of your hand

as it pulls upon my fingers

that suggests the blank of your eyes,

the compensation of sleeping

where the rain does not strike,

where, this time, the choice is yours.






by Kenneth P. Gurney



A magician arrived

and with the wave of his hand

all the world’s suffering vanished,

except for suffering

the magician’s intolerable smugness.


Everyone in an act of reverence

or an act of mockery

waved their hand as the magician had

to end the world’s suffering

once each morning, once each evening.


The magician never appeared on television.

And he never appeared in YouTube videos

even though thousands of people

pointed their smartphone cameras at him

and pressed record.


I met him one day on the beach,

just outside of his umbrella, while he sipped

a contemplative drink with the sweet fragrance

of accomplishment.  He appeared a bit translucent

and his shadow was not as strong

nor as attached as my shadow.


Not knowing what else to say, I ask

if the sand had gotten in his suit

and grated his crotch.  And immediately

felt myself the most stupid person in the world.

His shoes off to my left protruded out of the sand

like those Cadillacs outside Amarillo, Texas.


He said something in reply, but all I got

was the smell of old crows

picking at a roadside carcass

and I took this as a cue

to adjourn to the parking lot

and drive into the sunset.



Out of Nowhere


by Kenneth P. Gurney



The sun rises, misted by the blur of sleep.

You say last nights rose bouquet diluted our love

with a skipped heartbeat

that, somehow, ruined your constancy

you adore both me and the roses

and the sweet smell that attracts.


As the sun passes overhead,

the shore moves in, then out

and deepens a bodys skin, the bonds

of housewives and blue-collar workers,

even as the businessmen cheat

at many things.


There are people like ourselves,

products of steamy nights

and parental hungers

and a careless understanding

of love and the moons quarters.


In the abstract, the daylight will return

as cautionary lovers untangle

and ask the mysterious questions

of names, of postal codes,

of last nights unstable memories.


You manage to preserve the rose petals,

but not the scent, not your love for me

which dries and flattens and dulls

the color of my cheeks

in the mirror, in the gibbous moon.




Twenty Days After Release


by Kenneth P. Gurney



I work at a diner on the outskirts of town.

I work there for the ponderosa pines that surround it.


But if you asked what is my favorite color

I would surprise you with the detail of pantone three-o-one.


In the parking lot of the diner resides a rusted-out

nineteen twenty-four Ford pickup:


a day glow For Unbridled Passion sign colors the front window

and a litter of kittens sleeps just past a hole in the sun-bleached paneling.


If you ask what my favorite story is, I will answer

Le Guins The Other Wind on some days


and Tolkiens Lord of the Rings on other days

depending if the seasonal gusts are out of the southwest or east.


If the diner was a character in a book

I see its booths as old teeth in a mouth in need of dentures.


I speak softly in the dawn, especially before my first coffee

and in the dusk no matter how many pints I downed.


It is something about the bend in the light

and the honey glow over the fields and pastures


that inspire a reverence as close to church

as I will ever approach in my mid-sentence haltings.


It is strange how much abuse a waiter or waitress

deems acceptable for a pittance pay check


that the north wind regularly carves out

of a threadbare pocket.

Too many days I feel as if I wear someone elses skin

and the translucent lies I tell myself


do not seem to fit as well as a pair of thrift-shop overalls

nor do the pockets cover the long white scars on my lower arms


that appear as pure truth cut to the bone

or a mathematical proof with too many Greek letters.

Sumter Dispatch


by Kenneth P. Gurney



When we realize what Shermans March

means in its trans-generational tragedy,

we order another drink until the amber mist

fogs the present and the near future.


Then again,

the word rebel was used only in the north

and how different it is to celebrate the patriot

even a century and a half later.


I mean, from our modern perspective,

it is all so easy to see slavery as a sin.


Human bondage

does not represent more wealth

than all of our farm land and cities




by Kenneth P. Gurney


The nasty bite of the wind

reminded me that weather

is not a petting zoo

and that little old ladies

wield sharp knives

when defending their kitchens

and the stray dog

I thought might want a home

preferred unfettered freedom

and the right to growl

at whomever he disliked.

Second Course


by Kenneth P. Gurney



In their dream the peaches tasted me

and felt the bite of an old confession

my mother made at the breakfast table

where I dark star collapsed in upon myself

understanding my false placement upon this earth

against her timid free will

and the potted plants told me

they only hear the voice of God in the wind

and complained how the walls and windows

silence the great heavenly voice

and that there is no true joy in water

from a sprinkling can that fails to simulate true rain

and I thought for the first time

of paper-coated stainless steel twist ties

as something more than bookmarks

or a technique for keeping a dead parrot

upright upon its perch

and the peaches tapped me on the shoulder

and stated clearly they were ready

for a second course.

Wondered If I Missed Anything Exciting


by Kenneth P. Gurney




I felt my death waiting up ahead around the corner.

I quizzed myself if my upcoming death

would be literal or metaphorical.

I did not know the answer, so I

examined my cuticles for a couple minutes

and stood there blocking the sidewalk,

but there were no pedestrians to block.


As I stood there hoping for a sign from heaven,

a snake slithered across my path,

from out of the hedgerow on my right,

across the concrete sidewalk

and into a hole in the ground

that was hidden by the grass up to that instant.


I knew the snake was not Lucifer,

nor was I going to Alice and follow it down the hole,

but I wanted a sign so earnestly

that I examined my memory of the snake

for anything significant.


One. It was green and green means go.


Two. It was a very brave snake to slither out

with a very-large-me so close

and capable of stomping the ever-living out of it.


Three. The pattern on the snake’s back was quite beautiful

and I wished my shirt was just as attractive.


Four. There was no four. I got ahead of myself, even though

I stood still, blocking no traffic from non-existent pedestrians.


I felt my death tire of waiting up ahead

and I could taste impatience in the air.


The earth refused to tremor as my death strode away

toward our next four-part harmonic convergence

that would bring us together

with precognition or not.




Second Thought


by Kenneth P. Gurney


Cousin, if your unredeemable behavior causes me to shoot you,

my heart may detonate or cease beating or form a black hole,

so I invent a mythological spirit with whom to make appeal

for some celestial influence upon your determination process—

that is if meth and opioids and booze and Skittles by the bag full

have not erased all the cognitive decision diamonds

from your mental flowcharts.


I gain no solace in the screaming disconnect

of your last phone call to pry rent from my wallet

or the roll of Sakakawea dollars you stole from my car’s change cup

or my third edition copy of Leaves of Grass sold on ebay

to some New Jersey collector.


My bookshelves hold no poetry or prayers

to guide me through these days of your unleashed freedom,

so I wash my hands, my face, my work-stained arms

after cleaning my pistol and placing fresh bullets in the clip

and making sure one is always in the chamber.


Your liquored breath whispered preview

to the vortex blows that struck my wife, my children, my peace of mind

and I swear to you that I protect my own

and will not hesitate to wear Death’s boney face

so to deliver you to the far shore of the river Styx

without a second thought or having to reload.




American Sign


by Kenneth P. Gurney



Leon was willing to wager his last fiver

that the woman in the turquoise blouse

was a member of that albino Indian tribe

that erupted from the salt soil of New Mexico

sometime back in the sixties.

He guessed she named herself Magpie or Cactus Flower.

He felt the grudge held near his heart

rotate like spurs jabbing horse flanks

as his blood pressure rose and his mouth watered.


Leon felt the whirl in his brown eyes 

project x-ray vision of the sort

that saw through a turquoise blouse,

the frilly blue lace bra, and displayed her firm breasts.


He did not want to want her, but his crotch informed him otherwise.

He just knew she came to this adobe bar to find some native ass,

not a sunburnt pattern transplant euro-white boy like himself.

He just knew he was like the guy she dropped off at Goodwill

or the Salvation Army before she left the ivy league east coast

for the enlightenment of desert sage.


Leon drowned his stupid thoughts before he spoke

some insult or insinuation or sexual desperation out loud.

The pint only fragmented his sentences

as they exited his left hemisphere grammar filters,

so he hand signaled the bartender for a refill.




Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2017



by Kenneth P. Gurney



When you roll out from

under snow geese

the bed goes wild

and sprouts thick green grass

and a stalk of milkweed

for a hungry monarch.


When you open birds

the sky feasts upon your praying hands

and November rounds its corners.


All your shoes lap almond milk

with their dangling tongues

and hang out by the dog door

to catch the raccoons

in the act of entering—

which is not a crime if they break nothing.


You tabulated the roses

with some all-knowing algorithm

that perceives the exact number of bees in flight

at any instant.


When you return to the snow geese

the bed goes winter dormant

as I continue our conversation

on the awake side of sleep

and you snore just past the threshold.

Word Salad With Ranch


by Kenneth P. Gurney



We drill yellow jackets to strike pollen.

It is a door-hinge sweat-dog operation.


If you think fire ants make sense of this nostril flare

you might want to hush your threadbare blankets.


I see a boot-heel explanation ground into the dirt

and inch below a horse’s muddy driver’s seat.


We laden hospital gurneys with our daughters and sons

so their uncomprehending eye-blinks

remove the green static out of doctors’ mandibles.


The line of breadcrumbs you snorted

leave Hansel & Gretel stranded on a steamboat paddle-wheeler.


My hair roots grow deeper to reach the underground aquifer

during my contemporaneous poetry draught


and a collateral experience was that hobbit haberdashers

carved bicycle spokes in my cranium


to roll my absent mind on the centuries-old dirt trace

to the south forty and the rigid-dirigible herd.

Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2017



by Kenneth P. Gurney



The maize rows attempt to open the earth

to absorb me before I can rise from the dirt

where a sudden decrease in blood pressure

dropped me to my knees clutching my chest.


The maize rejoices that it is its turn to feed on me.

Through my flat-ear din, I hear their celebration

as the earth opens a little wider to accept my hand

and my knees, shins and feet.


It could soon be as if I never existed

and the only trace of me will be my Cubs hat

wind tumbled down the neat rows of stalks

that rise taller than my head when standing.




Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA with his beloved Dianne.  He edits the poetry blog Watermelon Isotope at His latest poetry book is Stump Speech. His personal website is at

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