Arrival

Paul stands alone
in the crowded town square.

Market day and he
just stepped off the bus

duffel bag in hand
a blue kepi on his head.

Pendleton wool jacket
over blue jeans, over boots.

New town. New Job.
New friends to be made.

A tarot reader insists on
an eight hour minimum wage day

to hint at fortune
and future.

Paul notes the market’s attendants
from bejeweled upper class

to grimy huddles
of the homeless.

A girl smokes a cigarette.
It clouds her beauty.

A Christmas tree blinks
adjacent to a gazebo

where a mariachi band
plays Christian holiday standards.

He types an address
into his smart phone—

two point three mile walk
to an empty apartment

and, being Sunday,
no heat or electric

until tomorrow
after his first day on the job.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dennis Hopper Photo Over A Kiva Fireplace

Paul stays
foggy and drizzly
all day long.

Hot chocolate
does nothing
to alter his forecast.

Somewhere
far away in Europe
the hills echo

with World War II
as old ordnance
claims a milk cow.

Paul drifts up Taos’ Paseo
to prospect the sky
for three hundred thirty days

of brilliant sunshine,
magnificent sunsets
and light that entraps artists.

The purple thistles
seem out of season
but opportunistic

while climate change
performs its namesake duties
pressuring mercury.

Adobe Bar electrifies wooden music
and a spontaneous round
on Guinness pints.

The Hum contemplates
who hears it and who does not
separating the struggling Paul

for another day’s distraction
of journaling on rolling papers
and retreating into that fog.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Taking Stock

Paul undresses.
He strips behind Denver skyline.

He evaluates his body.
There is no cowboy left in him.

Only the remnant bruises, scars
and mended bones.

He buttons a clean shirt.
He alters a setting in his brain

to Taos, New Mexico
and the mountains behind it,

the comfort there
on the rocky slopes

with a string of tourists
on horses that do most of the work.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peace

Peace comes at last,
stumbles through the dark,
grasps at the porch light,
settles on the glider
and there escapes
the youthful excitement
that ignites fireflies
over in the pasture,
before going inside
to wash at the basin,
then to bed and sleep.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Rotation

Dora’s orbit
collected space junk—
other people’s
lost buttons,
misplaced glasses,
forgotten credit cards,
discarded thoughts,
failed beliefs,
and severed roots.

She organized them
with the whirlwinds
that distribute fallen leaves
and treated them
with a cool rain
so moss and mushrooms
grow on surfaces
and send tendrils
exploring
for true pieces
of the previous owner.

Dora spent
no time
seeking to return
these objects
connected to her
through gravity
and aligned by motion.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Boundless

An aspen tree whispered to me.
Its voice drew my attention away
from its shimmering leaves.

In a whisper, as loud as it could speak,
it recited Whitman’s Song Of Myself
directly to my heart.

And in that instant all my atoms
and all the aspens’ atoms
belonged to each other.

The glade blurred and definition dropped away.
There I was under the bark, down
in the roots and released from the highest leaves.

There was no light or darkness.
The connection neither thinned or thickened.
Only the luscious sweet exchange.

And what I thought was one aspen whispering
was the entire grove in unison
and I knew for certain there was no ceasing after death.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Idyll

Once I romanced a married woman.
My excuse that I thought she was divorced
rang hollow as I saw him
drop off their children at the cafe
where we met. Where she worked.

We both scrambled to fill voids
in the lives we lived
and break the hidden curses
that thwarted the pursuit
of our own happiness.

It was not a connective smile
on a chance meeting,
but months of conversations
over tea, over chess
the small hole in her red wool scarf.

January was not so cold
as in years past
and the dream of better lives
shocked our dreary truths
with electric hope.

It did not last long. A week. Ten days.
Neither of us could turn away
from traditional societal expectations.
Fidelity to commitment—
to children, if not her husband.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cipher

I found
a secret
lodged
behind a loose
wall stone
not typical
of this
geography.

It was
written in code
and a feminine
scent rose
from the ink,
which was
the rust color
of oxidized
lipstick.

All the while
the sunshine
changed
from honey
to golden
to yellow
to the norm
of invisible
light that
provides definition.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Tortures Paul

He dreams of his daughter
snatched from his hands
by an American eagle,
magicked away by pixies,
torn away by wolves,
held for ransom by kidnappers,
floated out the window on a dark melody
by mysterious musical notes,
swallowed whole by a snake,
lifted skyward by the thumb
and index finger of God.

He wakes shuddering.
His hands feel so empty
they might as well not exist.
Touch cannot be trusted
ever again.

He can not shake this feeling
that he was pulled
far outside himself,
futilely trying to stop
the tragedy, holding on
until the predatory
Angel of Death
pried his fingers
away from dear life.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

With Chocolate

Hear me broom
the porch steps
clear of leaves
and observe
the futility
as the desert winds
swirls them back.

My waking cup
this morning
is Cabernet Sauvignon,
sipped while sitting
on the porch glider,
my feet propelling me
gently fore and back,
with brown leaves
crunching under my shoes.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney