Safe Place

Paul sought sanctuary among the aspens.

They granted it after
he dropped on his knees in tears.

They softened the afternoon sunshine.

The aspens shifted him away from the stream
into the center of the grove.

Here they protected him while he grieved.

They mistook his tears
for sap running down his trunk.

For an hour they protected his reflection.

They covered his scent
and stirred the leaves where his footprints marked.

Early spring smelled damp amid snow melt.

Rootlets grew upward
from the soil to touch his knees—console him.

The forest smelled good he remembered.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Overnight Excursion

Paul leaves.
He drives away between two incidences.

One is in the open.
The other is underground.

He drives to Taos to take a room.
He drives to Taos Mountain.

On its flanks he expects to walk
the two incidences into understanding.

He does not expect the aspens or ponderosas to help.
Often they do in silent ways.

He does not expect the rocky ground to help.
Often it does with painful insight.

When he walks Taos Mountain
he walks that place that is half dream half real.

He takes himself to the shadow world.
The mountain does not lead him or lead him astray.

It is a place in his mind where pink
and indigo stripe the sky.

It is a place of thought and not-thought.
Where walking merges everything together.

The open incident speaks for itself.
The underground incident emerges in pictures.

Pictures borrowed from memory to create metaphor.
It requires time to learn language to describe itself.

Paul walks into a new vocabulary by the time
he reaches the lake.

He walks until light is wrung from the sky.
He returns to Taos for sleep.

He returns to us the next day.
He goes into his studio and writes.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Aspen Glow

Paul writes nature poems
on top of nature
in an act of literary graffiti.

The wind dismembers his poems quickly.
It mistakes the black ink
as industrial soot from all over the world.

Some days Paul writes city poems
on the natural landscape
to prepare it for urban sprawl.

The wind moves those poems around too
but more like paper litter
that flutters like dropped leaves.

He has lived in Taos New Mexico
for three years
and has no friends

from the Taos Pueblo
the Land Grant hispanic community
or the 60’s hippy generation.

He knows he moved to Taos
to stroke the mountain flanks
with his eyes.

To meet the ethereal beings
that live off of the hum
and draw rainbows down from the clouds.

A magpie lifts him out of this thinking
with a long sentence of magpie words.
He has not yet mastered magpie.

He begins writing a spirit poem
on the air in front of him
in a slanted sun script.

The magpie snatches the first line
flies with it up into an aspen
and drapes it on a branch like tinsel.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Surrounded

From the wildflower
protruding granite
where the stream
picks up speed
the aspens draw
Paul’s fascination
into a quizzical expression
as the trees move across
the mountain meadow
without a shepherd
to maintain
their peel-bark layers
as a curtain
around the sacred hart
centered in this grove
as the red deer ambles
lazily grazing.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Interrupted

Paul threw a knife.
It bounded off an aspen tree.

The blade vibrated as if it thudded into the trunk
and the remaining energy wiggled off.

The vibration created an audible sound.
Similar to seventeen year cicadas.

Paul turned his back to the vibrating knife
feeling a sneeze coming on.

His sneeze thundered through the aspen grove.
It displaced the slender trees a few millimeters.

Surface bracken puffed up into the air.
Maybe an inch. Dust lingered at ankle height.

The sneeze rolled the knife over.
It ceased vibrating and played dead.

Paul kept his eyes closed after the sneeze
and stood up straight.

The sun shone directly on his face
and whispered Gesundheit.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

If At First You Don’t Succeed

The dead come to Paul
for him to teach them love
so they may pass
heaven’s gate.

He is poorly equipped
to teach such lessons,
but promised his mother
to do his best.

The first lesson
was a mountain walk
among the aspens
to a place above the tree line.

They spent the night
and watched the fireworks
of the Leonid asteroids
streak the sky

which gave way
to thin lines of clouds
that thickened
and then snow fell.

Since the dead
did not feel cold
they were not affected
by dropping temperatures.

But Paul pulled
his coat close around his body
and so he pulled
the dead close too.

What little warmth he had
he gave to the dead
thinking the disparity
would cause wings to sprout.

Snow angels was as close
as the dead came to growing wings.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Boundless

An aspen tree whispered to me.
Its voice drew my attention away
from its shimmering leaves.

In a whisper, as loud as it could speak,
it recited Whitman’s Song Of Myself
directly to my heart.

And in that instant all my atoms
and all the aspens’ atoms
belonged to each other.

The glade blurred and definition dropped away.
There I was under the bark, down
in the roots and released from the highest leaves.

There was no light or darkness.
The connection neither thinned or thickened.
Only the luscious sweet exchange.

And what I thought was one aspen whispering
was the entire grove in unison
and I knew for certain there was no ceasing after death.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Collective Cloud Space

For months Paul was silent
on his withdrawal up the mountain.

That was after society
instituted too many rules.

He was ready for rules
protecting the land and water from harm.

He was disgusted by rules
protecting business from accountability.

He suffered a contaminated nightmare
that refused Superfund clean up dollars.

He went up the mountain
so he’d not declare war on the world of men.

This fractious estrangement
began his talking to birds.

I catch glimpses of him when I hike the tree line,
but he always vanishes into the aspens and pines.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peel Of White Bark

Paul recognized he wore a fever.
He was not so sure if it was love or the flu.

Against his conscious will he scratched his nose.
His voice turned into a dull hoarse vapor.

He dreamt himself walking an aspen grove.
He asked for forgiveness for bringing his sickness up the mountain.

Again, he was not sure if his sickness
was love or the flu.

Paul decided to keep his mouth shut about his condition.
His words circled the wagons to defend themselves.

The aspen grove asked him for an apology.
He was not sure an apology engaged forgiveness.

He wanted to be saved, but was not sure
if it was from love or the flu.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Josiah

I need a ride.
I do not have time to walk.

No one answers my calls.
My smart phone does not know who is available.

There is Lyft.
But money remains scarce.

The walk will do me good.
It may tire me out before I reach her grave.

A walk usually sorts my emotions.
Walking meditation is better than driving meditation.

Meditation is better than medication.
Today I need big medicine, man.

No, her grave is not on the rez.
It is up in the mountains.

One of those small family boneyards.
Pioneers from long ago.

It is up among the aspens.
I trespassed on some old claim.

Added her ashes to the earth.
One foot north of Josiah’s headstone.

Josiah’s last name is lost to time.
His headstone is cracked and weather beaten.

Numbers state seventeen-ninety-nine-dash.
He was born on my birth month and day.

There are four other unreadable markers.
Lichen splotched stones outline the size of the yard.

Her ashes are under one of those stones.
I scratched her initials onto that stone.

She is neither in nor out of the pioneer boneyard.
The aspens migrated over the plot.

No trail leads up there.
I start where a stream passes under the road.

My feet always know their way through the wild
to those stones among the aspens.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney