Born Outside Chicago

In Albuquerque Lincoln is not someone
who gets spoken about much.

Not even on his birthday
which has been compacted into President’s day.

His name is remembered
for the Lincoln County cattle wars

which included Billy the Kid
and sheriff Pat Garret.

It does not matter that the Civil War
was fought as far west as the Rio Grande.

Our big battles of Valverde Ford and Glorieta Pass
are barely skirmishes compared to the fighting

in Virginia and Tennessee
and mostly unknown to the average citizen.

I doubt Lincoln ever sent an official communication
to Edward Canby the Union commander in New Mexico.

I am sure the War department
sent orders and directives from Cameron and Stanton.

Every couple years I make the two day drive
to Springfield Illinois to refresh myself on all things Lincoln.

And then on to Santa Claus Indiana for his boyhood home
and on to Hodgeville Kentucky to visit his birth place.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Rainier

Paul drinks a Rainier beer.
He drinks it because Longmire drinks Rainier.

Only a couple liquor stores in Albuquerque
stock Rainier beer.

Paul likes to carry a six pack in a backpack
and walk the volcanoes.

He likes feeling a cold one slide down
while sitting observing the city east to west

from that rocky vantage point
that residue of tectonic destruction.

He thinks of Mount Rainier blowing its top
like Mount St. Helen recently did.

Recently in geologic time.
Paul likes to think in geologic time.

His problems seem insignificant
within that framework.

If Rainier did blow its top
Seattle would be the future’s Herculaneum.

Paul turns from his stoney perch
and looks at the Jemez and the Valles caldera.

All that ejected rock and ash that filled
the Albuquerque rift—the Rio Grande valley.

He holds his Rainier beer can up
and tips it in salute

to the power of the earth beneath his feet
to move cubic miles of rock long distances

and drop boulders like rain drops.
Sitting on those rocks helps him keep perspective.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

As Long As It’s Out of Here

Although I live in Albuquerque
I see Dickensian ghosts.
Not a single Pueblo, Apache or buffalo soldier ghost.

Many of the ghosts are Marley-esque
but draped in modern clothes.
Some wear cowboy hats atop their heads.

A significant number of the ghosts
migrated here from the antebellum south
and appear to be plantation owners.

Since they are all white, I think
Capitalism occasions ghosts
through shoddy treatment of the poor.

Not all the ghosts wear Marley’s rattling chains.
Some are wrapped in barbed wire.
Others pierced with many fly-fishing hooks.

I have wondered Why Albuquerque?
and Why not Albuquerque?
as their destination and residence.

I think I will organize a roundup
like the ghosts are cattle on open range
and then drive them—somewhere.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Albuquerque Blizzard

It never showed up.
Went for the familiarity of South Dakota.
The Black Hills smothered white.

We got a dusting.
Hollywood surrealism
of coke on a mirrored landscape.

It melted off by noon.

The power went out in part of the city
when a squirrel ended its rodent life
with transformer pyrotechnics.

The sky remained sunny
until the summer
monsoon season.

The power was back on for Monday Night Football.

TV news did not cover
those blanketed folks in South Dakota.
I prayed their electricity stayed on

and no one died
due to lack of dialysis
or other medical procedures.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Magpie

Paul records bird names in a little book.
He records Thrasher many times each day.

All of his thrashers are curved billed thrashers.
He is unaware there are any other types.

Paul thought about marrying once.
He wanted to be a stepfather.

The woman Paul was interested in
had no children of her own.

She collected strays from the neighborhood
which had a high abandonment rate.

Paul said thank you to her for the opportunity
but he was only in like with the woman.

He liked that she listened to his words
but came to understand

she only listened to every other word
unless the word started with a hard consonant.

Paul records Magpie in his little note book
for the first time while in Albuquerque.

After five days he crosses out Magpie
since no corroborating witnesses came forward.

Little did Paul know that there is a Magpie
and it records people sightings in a little note book

though no one has yet postulated
how the Magpie groups people.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sunset Under a Break in the Clouds

Bright west difference.
Night sky without constellations.

Forever unhinged.
Vertigo.

The sky is falling!
The sky is falling!

Terrafirma embrace.
Nearby horses.

Fewer names I am known by.
Limbs stirring July.

Pushups.
Tens of them.

Ones really.
Single digit planet.

Eyes transfixed.
Adobe brick church transept.

Pebbles in my shoes.
Journey slowed.

Muddy white laces.
Unbowed tied.

Dew wet.
The sky opens up.

An immense rain.
Not Noah big.

Arroyo wash out.
Three homeless

now embraced by
Poseidon? Yahweh?

Vishnu? Mohamed?
Rio Grande sandbar.

Flow rates
remain twenty percent of normal.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dead Parrot Sketch

Instead of teaching our parrot
to say hullo and goodbye
we taught it magical spells
from a battered leather bound book
we found at a woo-woo resale shop.

Some days the parrot used
the wrong inflection
on a turned phrase
and we found ourselves
at the beach by Santa Monica pier.

The third time the parrot
teleported us
onto a romantic seat
of the Santa Monica ferris wheel
but it failed to recall us
back to the kitchen
in our Albuquerque house.

Thus the parrot starved to death
since my wallet was still in
my other jeans
and Dianne’s purse
hung on the back
of a dining room chair.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Mental Engine Block

My car refuses to enter Denver, Colorado.
In fact it refuses to go over Monument Pass.

I tried gunning it up and over
but the engine died and we rolled backward

against traffic on Interstate Twenty-Five
which is as scary as you imagine.

My car works fine south of Colorado Springs.
I doubt my car’s disfunction is perpetrated by the Air Force Academy

by the Garden of the Gods
or some healing water spirit in Manitou Springs.

I have tried entering Denver on US Two-Eighty-Five
and from the east and west on I-Seventy.

All attempts failed. I took a Greyhound from Albuquerque
and the bus broke down outside Fountain

under the gaze of Cheyenne Mountain
with both NORAD and the Zoo.

Other than this fact, my car is a good car
and gets me where I am going in a timely manner.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Middling

The last time I flew to the moon
my feet remained grounded in Albuquerque.

I thought I would be the first to visit the lunar surface
but there were foot prints in the dirt

that looked like Fred Astaire
and Ginger Rogers had danced there.

I’ve seen those steps in nineteen fifty’s
home dance lesson kits with numbered footprints.

Now you know I am talking about the past
before Mark McGwire’s prodigious home run seasons.

Before. Neil Armstrong and the Apollo Eleven mission.
Before Jackie Gleason and Alice.

I was five years old and my conscious mind
did not prevent me from doing things I thought possible.

I hate that I am now limited by reality
as taught to me through university and peer pressure.

If you need me I’ll be seated halfway down the staircase
Not at the bottom. Not at the top.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Why I Have A List Of Favorite Rest Stops

Sadness persists in me.
Like it is an uncharted organ.

Bicycling does much to diminish it.
Photo albums tend to intensify it.

Blueberries on my morning yogurt
signify I have a taste for blueberries.

There are days sadness
pulls me deeper inside myself.

Other days it pushes me
outside my skin.

Drinking shrinks it briefly
then expands it to galactic dimensions.

As sad experiences add up
I do my best to relabel them neutrally.

There is something about driving long distances
that vibrates sadness out of my pores

to steadily drip on the pavement
of the interstate highways I traverse.

I once tried the nomad lifestyle
because of this fact

but ran out of novel roads to drive
at Neah Bay with a view of Waadah Island.

I threw nine amens and hale-Mary’d
my St. Christopher medallion into the ocean

where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the sea
trusting that would pacify my sadness.

It did not. My sadness suggested
we head back to Albuquerque

and the surrounding desert
since the green chile harvest started that week.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney