Fiction 17 Jan 2022

The bear that clawed me
I owe an apology
and blame myself for trespass.

Our cartography draftsmen
do not draw boundaries
marked by scent glands.

I tell myself I am lucky
the bear was not hungry
and its border nearby.

Four grooves in my back
expose rib bones to air—
wear threads steeped in blood.

I tell myself this is a story
grandmother should hear
one bloody step after another.

That is if the earth
does not swallow me first
in an act of mercy.

Or I find a limestone crack
to call a cave
in which to crawl and sleep.

How silly of me to think
planting a flag on a hilltop
made the wilderness mine.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Not Destined to be a Mainmast

Juncos dot the snow.
Salmon-fattened bears recede.

I mean I spotted tracks
on the ground headed away.

My glasses fog briefly with each breath.
Bare hands ask why no gloves.

Whisper (my dog) bounds
through the new growth cedars.

He sniffs reasons to dig
the earth bare.

We move up the valley
to that one cedar that survived

last century’s lumbermen
for unknown reasons.

If there were five of me
we could just barely link hands around it.

I see this cedar as the grandmother
of the valley.

This long walk through snow
seeks dating advice.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


My mother left me one thing
when she passed away—
a statuette of a standing grizzly bear.

Smooth wood and minimal form
a dark brown stain
a granite base.

It stands at the foot of my bed
to make bad dreams wary
of approaching my sleep.

If she set it up as sentinel
back when I suffered
childhood night terrors

she would have slept
through until dawn
more often than not.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney