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


Paul took a long drag
on American exceptionalism
while he drank
a pint of upward mobility.

He looked
from his laborer hands
to the barroom mirror
and searched his face

for the American Dream
and found the Liberty Bell’s crack
and the manure piles
of Paul Revere’s horse.

He taped the ashes
off exceptionalism into a glass tray
and relived the putdowns
he hears each day

by those people paid for their brains
not their physical actions
and the currency of elitism
over his bartered production.

Paul might have been created equal
but what was equal
about the poverty he was born into
and the wage war

his father fought each day
trying to achieve decency
against the ideals
of free markets and capitalism.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney