Thor

We met in an aspen grove.
You came from the mountain top
to meet me.
We were near the tree line.
The sun got under our skin.
The wind picked up
and the air cooled quickly.
The sun hid behind
a newly arrived cloud.
The cloud was crow-dark.
You lifted your smoking hand.
The leaves browned as you passed.
The aspen trunk you touched
burst into flame
simultaneously with thunder
that knocked me down.
The trunk split ground to bough.
You whistled to the cloud.
The cloud replied with cold rain.
Heavy shot-glass drops.
My head felt their blows.
My nose bled.
My ears rang for days.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

A few times in my life hiking above ten-thousand feet in the mountains, I have been caught by thunderstorms. Foolishness on my part not paying enough attention to weather forecasts or thinking I could get up the mountain and back with time to spare. It is quite the experience. Both terrifying and glorious.

Having No Other Explanation

Near our tent
on the beach
four ivory tusks—
large ones
like elephant tusks—
lay on the sand
in a geometric pattern
with the designer’s
footprints
washed away.

We were there
several days
before we realized
they moved
a few feet every night
toward the dune
that separated
the beach
from the parking lot.

You suggested
a phalanx of ants
hefted them
in the moonlight
using their super
strength ratio
to body mass
and teamwork
philosophies.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

In A City

In a city made of mud and straw
a silence in every doorway
a mouth locked by fear.

I walk daily through the sun strewn streets
my hands shooing crows
my footprints puffing settled dust.

Happily ever after migrated
to a land of oddly garbed strangers
where the sky is a different blue.

In a city full of Cassandras
remaining citizens listen and unlisten
to daily pronouncements.

Rhymes hold the ear longer
against the owners’ will, while hands
refuse to let go.

Every citizen is a harbinger
claiming a rain god is soon to arrive
as the umbrella shop declares bankruptcy.

In a city of multiple layers of dust and ash
there are ten thousand reasons
and ten crosses visible from every doorway.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Reach

Seconds are years
when you wake too early,
cannot fall back to sleep
and the mattress
feels like it would prefer
the exquisite form
of someone else’s body.

A war starts in Albuquerque
but it is so familiar
and of such an ordinary size
the news does not recognize it
even though it is part
of the incidental music
behind the city streets.

A new line of street lamps,
made of recycled hand guns,
are accustomed to the heat
of a different type of ignition
and make a brief flash
instead of something constant.

The sky is pocked
with brightly colored balloons
practicing ascension
for those who believe
the end of the world is nigh
and not a night when sleep
is torturously out of reach,
like car keys an inch past
outstretched fingertips
through the sewer grate.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cushion

Four AM walks past
my bus stop
as I sit on the cold green bench
awaiting the first
number fifteen of the day.

Grief litters un-mown grass
and concrete
around the bus stop
where it was left
by undone people
coming home from work.

Roadside, in the puddle,
the moon gleam
shows no sign of its craters
where a rat appears
near a grate
then scurries over to
the brimming trash bin.

Four AM circles back
in the guise of a feral cat
silently padding
through the taller grasses.
She strikes the beast
slowed down
by a partially eaten
burger with cheese.

The fifteen arrives
and I carry both
this stomach-filling victory
and family loss
into my bus ride trance,
but set it on the seat
across from me.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Long Low Notes

The fog plays its horn section
over the woodwinds.

A ghost emerges wearing only
my memories.

She wraps a moonbeam
shawl around her shoulders.

She traces my body
with murder scene chalk.

Against my will
I cry myself out of sleep.

My hands reach out
to pull her close.

The fog plays its horn section
over the woodwinds.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Blue

Bluegrass. Horse worship.
My old Kentucky home.

Blue moon. Bourbon perfectly aged.
Coal country opioid agony.

Blue bruise. Horsewhip.
Too much porn viewed out of boredom.

Blue ink. Loan application.
Fake identity running ahead of the law.

Blue mood. Memory wreck.
Gravity draws down half-broken.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Miles & Years Away

In my mind’s night
memory fields blossom
with an abstract
of what I have lived.

How can I feel
you chew your tobacco
when you are buried
in your threadbare jeans?

Or that happy hour
when that first burn slick
of Kentucky bourbon
scarred my throat.

If I add a shot before sleep
my memory fields bloom
with father’s work
when he was a teen

clearing by hand
all the weeds from between
long green rows
of waist-high maize

with his farmer’s tan
contrasting against
his sweat soaked white t-shirt
crossed by brown suspenders.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

There Now

Twenty-seven years gone
but my dog is young again
riding shotgun in the car
with her nose pressed
to the crack in the window.

Speed generated wind
brings her a thousand stories
as the great plains
rise gently toward the Rockies
and the forest trails we once walked.

For old times sake
I pull off the highway
for a quarter pounder
and buy her a cheeseburger
that she’ll consume in one bite.

Eventually I park the car
at a trailhead on the Spanish Peaks.
Even her golden ghost refuses
to jump out the open door and walk
the trail up to where the thunder gods hangout.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney