Paul wakes a couple times each night out of breath.
He claims it is the fight to prevent ghosts from stealing his dreams.

His doctor prescribes a sleep study without Paul’s consent.
The noisy exhale of forest fires wraps the clinic in secrecy.

On arrival Paul quickly discovers he does not speak
the local tongue and his car does not care to taste the gravel lot.

Before lying down Paul checks the premises for a rescue dog
agitated by the purr of a rotating fan.

Sleep not finding Paul in his own bed mopes about
telling its tragic story to any who will listen at the corner bar.

Radio waves triangulate on Paul’s location
and transmit poems to his left wit, knowing his right wit is deaf.

A weather forecast keeps chiming into Paul’s verse
as an unexplained door bell in search of an on-off button.

Not catching a single wink all night
Paul repatriates himself back to his own home.

He discovers all the poems he wrote in his head during the night
appear on his desk in a white legal pad written in sepia ink.

The ghost writer settles back into a haunted book
that recounts the Civil War Battle of Valverde where he died.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hovered a Moment then North

The forest shuttered.
There was no computer model for that phenomenon.

A new stream pushed
radioactive particles into the reservoir.

The city council
had no experience with such shedding.

Gender equality was on the agenda
but the review panel’s report was never read into the record.

A woman of color tabulated with an iPad
the health physics of human causes and effects.

The team sent out to determine
if a new crack formed in the earth’s crust never returned.

Someone got scared and waved a gun around.
The police applied a measured response that ended peacefully.

The issue is not health but liability
according to the former insurance adjuster on the council.

In the roundhouse, the debate centered on reparations
for evicted homesteaders with no consideration for the tribes.

The forest shuddered a second time
then lifted off in a cloud of dust headed for who knows where.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Note: The roundhouse is the building where the New Mexico state government assembles and has all of the representatives’ offices and meeting chambers.

Before We Open It

If landfills became cemeteries
would there be more or fewer flies?

Your loved one six feet down
rests against a ten year old disposable diaper.

I might conclude the underworld
is the land before the landfill filled the landscape.

And with what? Our midden moxie.
All things broken unless exposed to be toxic.

What a site for future archeologists—
busy unearthing wrong conclusions about our culture.

Or maybe not. Maybe the layers upon layers
will develop enough pressure

to realign carbon compounds
into diamonds.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

What was Once Solid

Paul breathed a spell.
He breathed in the pine scent of the ponderosas.
He breathed in the water vapor where the stream splashed rocks.

The spell he wanted was magical without sirens.
The spell was medicinal to remove a bruise from his ego.
The spell infused the hibiscus tea in his thermos.

He achieved that valued non-thinking.
He felt himself blur.
Merge is a better word for what he did with the wild.

Paul half understood this connecting.
He attributed it with the divine without a white bearded god.
Sunlight streamed through leaves amplifying the beauty.

Ages of death and rebirth made themselves plain.
Dead cells made way for new ones.
And the bear walked sideways past him not ten feet away.

Paul swallowed and the muscle motion brought him back to himself.
Separate now and again as the raucous stellar jays scolded.
He rose to return to town from the mountain.

His connection lingered just under the skin.
The divine inside him to the divine outside his body.
Unseen currents stream through him now, not around.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Whether Disliking or Loving

Paul watched the sun pass overhead
through golden aspen leaves
to soften the light that enters his eyes.

He desired freedom from the bible
and its followers, so he might write
his own scriptures.

Paul grounded himself in children’s verse.
Alan Alexander Milne.
From which he composed a life manifesto.

He claimed to have no answers.
He broadcast Mozart for the sparrows.
Vivaldi for the sparrow hawks.

Paul flooded the neighborhood
with the feeling of being alone
so community might form with urgency.

He thought it might help the brave
mend their brokenness
and the fearful to dance in the mad streets.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Wind Scrawls

The wind carries other people’s songs
to our translucent ears.

Lori took the bluegrass out the wind.
Paul snatched the political folk music.

Spoken word merely fogs the wind
when it is asleep.

Neither Lori nor Paul heard the wind
whisper the key to personal power.

Though they did hear angel mumbles
that seemed to mean something.

Lightning dismembers the wind
momentarily—until it recomposes itself.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

I am the Emptiness Between My Atoms

My life rustles.
Doubt strengthens my faith.

The knife that wounds me
strikes mostly nothing.

My glass is full of hunger.
And the eruption of distant stars.

It is easy to think wind blown trees
swat the sky with their leaves.

I discovered this old slowness.
I embraced my obsessions like a prophet.

Cultural torpedoes
sunk my ship of state in heavy waters.

There I am on turbulent seas
afloat in the lifeboat of forgiveness.

Void and expanse are not good names
for what exists between stars.

My molecules are interested in being me
for only so long, then they go.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Tolerance

Lori carried a dust buster
as if it was a six-shooter in a holster.

Whenever she was around rude people
she quick-drew the dust buster

and sucked their ill tempered words
out of the air.

This earned Lori baleful gazes
from those rude people

who wanted their words to land
a knockout punch.

Lori had no trouble with this consequence
but wished to learn

how to empty her dust buster
so it was not a lumbering B-52

dropping its payload
in her trash bin with the city logo.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shame on You

When people say shame on you
you do not have to wear their meaning
like a shawl.

There is what is real.
What we say is real.
And the reality others impose.

You raise your hand
to the big bear constellation
to feel the vibration of universe.

I raise my hand, too
but unfamiliar with galactic things
feel the desire to hold your hand.

Out of the night
the cold apparition of your departed dog
appears to both of us.

It tells us it never liked the food
you placed in its dish—
only hunger forced it to eat.

Before your rebuttal
the apparition evaporates
like so much fog.

You state you will take this rebuke
as a new starting point
for tomorrow’s dog.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Language Experiences Brief Seasons of Breath

The temperature expresses
the frame of emotion.

We the listeners
react like flower buds—

expanding, contracting
rotating trying to find the sun.

Yesterday I sheltered myself
from your frosty suffering.

Today your requisite need
for affection

consumes all the oxygen
in your proximity.

You regularly place
obstacles between us

(like the dining table longways)
to maintain distance.

That suggests something
unraveled your tether to love.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney