As I Age

As I age
my skin fits looser
like my belt at forty-two
after losing
sixty-two pounds.

Gravity’s constant pull
has pressed weight
on my feet long enough
that my size thirteen narrow
is now thirteen medium.

At least age has forced me
to slip folded poetry pages
in my hatband
to fill the space
my ego once occupied.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cache of Four

My sleep drifts.
I wake unintentionally slanted.
I walk all day at an angle.
Lean in my chair.
My cursive handwriting improves.

Each Christian meme
reinforces the proclamation
I am not saved
and heaven rejects me
at the river’s edge
because I do not claim
Jesus as my savior.

Just south of Albuquerque
the green farm fields
contrast the desert land
above the flood plain
and though the Rio Grande
does not appear swift or deep
the current will drag
you under for the fishes
and bull frogs.

In places God seems readily apparent
and those places have nothing
to do with humans
and their destructive constructions.
I cannot claim to know fully
how Ego skyrocketed
apartments and business buildings
into right-angle canyons.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mi Tarea de Vocabulario

A smokey twist
rises from a cigarette
above the bent nubs
of four others
in an ashtray.

My Spanish tutor
practices card tricks
in an empty room
but fails to conjure
the three of clubs
from thin air
thickened with smoke.

My arrival
for my lesson
shoves her cards
deep into a red
woolen pocket
as my halting words
relay I left
my vocabulary
homework
in a parking lot
truck cab
that is by now
eighteen-wheeling it
west on I-40.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dented Carbon Fiber

Paul pinned a paper number
to the black asphalt.

He changed it every day
to reflect auto fatalities.

Of animals that is.
Especially flying insects.

He pinned it like he was angry.
He was angry.

These were numbers
he never invited into his head

or discussed over a beer
with Rudy.

Today’s number stretched across
one-and-a-quarter lanes.

Within three cars zooming over it
it was shreds, litter, ink

ready to bleed on the prickly pear
in the next desert rain.

Each night as dawn approached
a distant yelling broke Paul’s sleep.

A yelling inside his head
that did not sound like his deceased father.

Paul decided to use initiative
and print extra blank spaces left and right

so he might stretch the number out
like knifeless tape at the finish line.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Honor System

Two rust laden wrought iron gargoyles flanked the gate.
They watched traffic pass on the street.
Cobwebs stranded flies between fence rods.
Paul entered cautiously.
Faded on top, a red ball remained motionless.
The knee high grass hopped with locusts.
A woman, white as a ghost, watched from the window.
Her limp hair even paler than her skin.

A photo series hung from a clothes line by wooden pins.
Black and white nineteen-forties film stars at leisure.
Often at home without make up.
The sign stated, Newly printed from original negatives.
On the table sat a locked metal box with a slot.
Hand scrawled in marker $50 each.
A box of white cotton gloves sat next to the cashbox.
Paul pulled on a pair to examine his childhood heroes.
He thought how easy it would be to pilfer the set.
A grating sound rounded upon him.
He glanced to see the gargoyles now looking in his direction.

Paul slid a greenback U.S. Grant in the slot.
He exited with John Wayne.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Suddenly

Bethany awoke
naked and confused
as a morning shower
dotted her skin
in a breezeless field
of lavender rows.

She sat up
and spotted
her dropped cloths
leading back
to the two-lane
highway—
the only way
in or out
of the peninsula.

She remembered
walking away
from a rumor-filled
harbor town
where pedestrian eyes
drilled holes in her spine
and the neighbor
who poisoned her dog.

A golden retriever
bounded
down the heavily
scented rows
to investigate her,
bowled her over
back onto the dirt
and planted
dog kisses
upon her
tight-lipped face.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Unrepentant

His reputation
came from photographing
children at play
in parks, pastures, windows
and school yards.
Or at work
on farms with animals.

He did so from a distance
with a professional grade zoom lens.
Odd angles illustrated
the difficulty of remaining unseen,
thus the observer
not influencing the observed.

It was rumored he planned
to build blinds
like nature photographers
but the children
are not so innocent
to misinterpret
new structures.

He preferred places
off the grid
in first world nations
whether the lack of electricity
and running water
was geographic, political
or extreme poverty.

His photos exposed
blameless lives
at rest and at play,
making the best
of circumstances
with indomitable
spirits.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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