Paul stumbled
on a couch foot
dropped to the floor
and spotted
a book
under the couch.
The book
was borrowed
from the library
months ago
and wore
magenta post-its
on seventeen pages
where someone
used yellow
to create
what Paul suspected
was a haiku
until he jotted
the seventeen words
on a sheet
of blue lined paper
with a fine point
felt-tip marker.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Geographic Center

As fallen leaves
collected on the ground
Lori refused
to rake them up
before man and rakes
leaves blanketed
the ground
from sea
to shining sea
then she went
on a tangent
about pine needles
in conifer forests
and no leaves
on the vast prairies
that are now corn
and wheat fields
grown in states
that line up
north to south
with Lebanon

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Chip

This cottonwood tree
by the bosque hiking trail
is where some unknown person
tied up and left a dog.

The dog was a bit thin
so one may surmise
the person suffered financially
during the pandemic.

Though many people
are poor businessmen
and fail due to a lack
of understanding markets.

The person was kind enough
to leave a bright pink bowl
filled with water
for the dog.

Without a sign or obvious note
I was reluctant to believe
the dog was displayed for the taking
like a file cabinet at the curb.

I started to walk away
then spotted three coyotes
off to my left in the cottonwoods
headed in the dog’s direction.

Once I untied the dog
she picked up her pink bowl
in her mouth
unwilling to leave it behind.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Down Payment

Paul held the cool soil in his bare hand.
He saw some small wood dust in the mix—
last year’s labor with a saw and four-by-fours.

The nearby fence post stands out—
not weathered nearly as much as those adjacent
and two inches taller.

The wire keeps the goats in
but not the coyotes out
or the rabbits from the garden.

Paul wakes from a dream in piñon shade.
The endless blue stretches to the horizon.
No fence separates his land from the wilderness.

Not enough wood present for miles
to build a coyote fence
in the manner of previous centuries.

A rabbit flees rabbitbrush.
A nearby scrub jay makes its harsh call.
A vapor trail slices the sky.

This forty acres off a dirt road with no number
requires another couple years
of Paul making city wages

before a house blossoms from the dirt
or a fence marks the boundary
or a single goat chews the buffalo grass.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Maybe Someone Will Visit

I still wake at night around one
for an hour or a tad more.

I imagine this is part of the human experience
and why the ancients knew the stars.

At night the wind’s sound is so different
while sitting under the mimosa.

Some hot nights in July I dream snow falling
and stacking flakes on the spiky cholla tips.

Imagine if Queen Victoria visited Albuquerque
in eighteen-eighty-two instead of Oscar Wilde—

to be honest I am not sure Oscar
made his way to the Rio Grande or whether I dreamt it.

Some nights returning from outside
I spy envelopes in the postbox their delivery ignored.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


We ate almonds and apple slices
at a picnic table.

We debated whether this public square
should be lined with fruit trees.

You suggested the drought will turn
this city into a wasteland.

We discussed the Ukraine war
as if we were military tacticians.

Your dog carried a rat it killed
and dropped it between our feet.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Four Conditioners Left at Home

Lori laughed like jingle bells.
She returned from Paul’s well with water.
Two buckets for balance.

This cabin in the woods
was both horrible and beautiful. Alive.
Alive with too many things that scared her.

At night when the sky exposed
a hundred times more stars than the city lights allowed
they lay on the picnic table looking up.

Two buckets of water is not enough
to wash her hair or for a bath.
A shower contraption is a kind description.

Her mistake was believing out here
the birds would be so unafraid of people
that they would take turns landing on her hand.

Once Lori got over the idea that dirt made one dirty
the chores got done without complaint
as if she was changing skins.

She poured fire heated water into the tank
and combined it with cold water.
Gravity delivered the temperate mix to the shower head.

She realized her facial skin felt like her own
and not like a canvas for makeup.
Her eyes required no color but her brown irises.

One thing she luxuriated in
was Paul brushing her hair each night—
one hundred strokes.

Water from the shower head touched her face and hair.
She was quick with the shampoo
to lather and rinse before the tank emptied.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul was struck
by his lack of desire for the Abrahamic God
or any of the thousands of interpretations
of the Word perpetrated on the day.

He decided as a child
he had not failed Sunday school
but it failed him
as it tried to indoctrinate his behavior.

He admitted some of the stories
were good to know in a vague way
like knowing where one hill is
among thousands of nameless hills.

Paul pulled water up from the well.
He knew no matter
what he believed
the water would be the same.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Twelve Fifty-Seven

I do not know if it matters
if the Army uses artillery or bulldozers
to destroy houses.

Arms lift suitcases
stuffed with clothes and personal items
in a reassessment of value.

One way or another, at sunrise
prayer is called for
and rituals engage to calm nerves.

Dust from the destruction
hangs in the air like a toxic gas
that eats stability and morale.

If the Army cleared the land
so crops grew among the ghost houses
without tangling bones

I would not require this asylum
helplessly trying to make sense
of the senseless.

We stopped counting steps
at twelve hundred and fifty-seven.
We walked until night closed the day.

We slept that night under trees
that housed mourning doves.
They shat on us when they took flight.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

One Shoe Drops

Lori describes her bed
as a sack of potatoes
and her pillow
as a bread loaf full of hungry mice.

Of course she is in her cups.
Of course she feels an ache for connection.

It is the hour of brag
that men label happy
where work-day stomach pains
relax with applied poisons.

Of course she wants someone in her life
to break up with.

Far away in Ukraine
fourth cousins three times removed
fight an enemy armed with lies
that generate a holy sense of purpose.

Of course Lori does not think about it
at a conscious level.

Lori is dimly aware she survives
a toxic, sexist digital workplace
drinking until everyone goes home
and the door shuts her out.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney