Yellow Mama Archives

Kenneth P. Gurney
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GALUMPHING

 

                   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.

 

 

 

Combination

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Harvest

 

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.

 

 

Receptivity

 

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.




 

 

 

V

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.

 

 

Attendant

 

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.




Pickup

 

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.



 

 

 

Sunset

 

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

combined.




Declination

 

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.

 

 

 

Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM, USA with his beloved Dianne.  His latest collection of poems is Stump Speech (2015).  You may learn more about and his publishing credits at his website  kpgurney.me.










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