Proof Sheet

By Kenneth P. Gurney

There is a picture you want to take
but you do not have a Nikon, a Canon,
or a smart phone, so you use
the only thing handy: language.

The people wind and rewind
their many colored shirts as they sift
their salt and pepper faces
through the mesh screen of your inebriation.

You notice you fail to recognize
the best parts of this scene to focus upon
and you doubt your aperture’s setting
will expose the correct mood.

Your desire to get this right befuddles you
and you are not sure if in the background
it is the statue of liberty
or one of those six inch tall souvenirs.

Your desire remembers the girl you left behind
on the train platform and you think you failed
to wave goodbye from the pullman window
after kissing her into a smear of lipstick.

Her eyes were May-oak-leaf green.
At least you have that, but you don’t have that,
because it is where you left her in Chicago
along eastbound track number three.

So now your mind is in Chicago
instead of describing this picture with language
and your tongue drills a hole into your cheek
as you realize she would be worth a lifetime selling insurance

as a way to pay the everyday bills
and photography would be a hobby instead of vocation—
so what about your seasonal goal of documenting ice skating nuns
or the sexual habits of Peace Corp volunteers.

So what about art italicized or in all caps.
What really matters right now is a decision.
Which passion tips the scale in its own favor:
love or photography.

I say, young man, I hear the violin section tuning up.
The preacher’s sermon is practiced
and he approaches the pulpit
with all the bravado of a shore-leave sailor.

Kenneth Gurney 1Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM with his beloved Dianne. He emcees the Adobe Walls open mic at Page One Books and is the founding editor of the Adobe Walls anthology of NM poets. His latest collection of poems is Curvature of a Fluid Spine. To learn more visit

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