Complex

Now you know
I was once
committed
for owning
one more
complication
than I
could juggle
without dropping
everything
while my dog
barked warning
that the church
pounded nails
out of scrap iron
ready to pierce
my flesh
as a refresher
parable
for the rows
and rows
of warehoused
worshippers.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Lights Go Out

On a bedstand
a sprig of lavender dries

over a photo of Father
wearing one of his rare smiles.

A curtain of song
darkens a quartet of windows.

Liberated,
Lori’s hair falls past her shoulders.

From another room,
the news describes the violence

of the ignored
refusing to be the ignored any longer.

She whispers a prayer
for the protesters and law enforcement.

The sky reddens.
She fears the phone may ring.

She settles into her bed.
A block of ice.

The lavender scent
flashes images of her very first dog.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Adjustments

I stopped meeting my friends for happy hour.
I stopped reading the news.

I ceased going to my cafe to write.
I ceased greeting people’s dogs on hiking trails.

I put an end to attending poetry readings.
I put an end to getting my palm read.

Placing book reviews on Amazon came to an end.
Knowing the future came to an end.

I swept the kitchen floor seven times today.
I washed every doorknob nine times.

I sterilized everything except for a batch of cookies.
I washed the empty beer bottles twice.

All my books are now my friends.
All my friends are yesterday’s pages in my diary.

I watched every Star Trek episode over again.
I studied an ant crawling up the shower curtain.

Hunger is disoriented and arrives at odd intervals.
Tragedy waits in the zeal of Sunday churchgoers.

My phone is painful to hold when it rings.
Uncontrollable shivers rattle my bones from time to time.

I attempt to learn the subtle meanings
of my dog’s various woofs.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

About Face

It begins with the bridge into this world.
It recedes as you walk into birth.
You remember it as a song echoing the gap it spanned.
That song defies the delivery, the static wailing.

In times of crises that song rises in your cells.
It works to dispel your denial of the truth.
Your pinched fingers clean dead moths from a window sill
and then their dust from your hands.

You know there are two cliff faces where you stand.
One is real, rock hard, with a river running the bottom.
The other is the choice between conflicting actions,
endings and beginnings and definitions of both.

The real cliff is not the same as when you last visited.
This time tree branches cluster with leaves.
The pungent sage in the air.
The thistles wear the purple of popes.

You arrive here remembering the barrenness.
At least that is what you tell yourself.
But it was the other chasm that requires bridging
that brought you here and a memory of doing so once.

Suddenly, you doubt you fed the dog this morning.
How could you be so negligent?
Doubt roughs you up, both inside and out.
It rubs you raw as it smooths out a thought.

The song breaks through for a moment
and spans the physical chasm with a dusty light.
You feel a leap of faith is required
to bound over the bridge onto a solution.

But you take a step back from both edges.
You realize you do not require definitions
of endings and beginnings.
They are synonymous and daily in appearance.

A line of quail speed past you, take up your attention
and turn you around to follow them.
First with your eyes. Then with your feet.
You are back at your car. Seven miles from your dog.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

When I lived in Taos, NM in the late 1990s, I often went to the Taos Gorge and the trailhead there. I went for walking. I went for the beauty of the mesas. I went for the rent in the earth and the river far below.

Depression was a lot worse for me back then than it is today. I would go to the gorge to think, to processes the multitude of experiences that happened in a week or in the past. There is something about larger than humanity geography that humbles this person. Evidence that the world is far larger than yourself. Why I like living in the mountains, though a sea or great lake coast will do in a pinch.

During my years in Taos, the gorge became a place the people traveled across the country to commit suicide. From the highway bridge to the bottom is more than 800 feet. Some of the people leapt from the edge of the gorge instead of the bridge. The walls are fairly sheer and the rocks jagged enough.

I remember puzzling out my past and my present either in the mountains or along the gorge. My latest therapy session epiphanies. My appreciation of being alone and how it conflicted with a desire for connection. And so on.

Nature had (and has) a way of grounding me. Whether it is the flight of hawk in the gorge. Or the color of a flower bloom. Or the unexpected appearance of an animal. Magpies were favorites. I never felt lonely with magpies about.

I return to this basic poem and write it anew at least once a year. Similar, but different. The gorge. The impassable. And needing to span the fall to go forward. Or to recognize that gulf in the mind is just an old conviction and can be changed with altering attitude or perception.

I seem to rewrite this poem observing myself, separate from myself. Hence the You, even though I am speaking of my footsteps and the nature I stand in.

Love & Light

Kenneth

If He Returns

My dogs drag home a doe
and pull her up the stairs to the porch
where they tear hunks of flesh and chew.
The drag marks upon the snow
lead three-quarters of a mile
into the wood to where she collapsed—
blood loss from gut-shot trauma.
I follow the drops another half mile
to a slight ravine where a red spray
displays the bullet’s direction
and spot the spruce tree it thudded into.
Nearby, I find human bootprints
that refused to pursue the doe
and finish it off with a mercy blow
then take home the meat.
The bootprints lead to a tree
with wooden rungs up into a blind
vacant except for an empty whiskey flask
and two Egg McMuffin wrappers.
My big waffle stompers
create an easy path to follow
through the snow back to the cabin
as I get tools to dismantle the blind
and relieve the spruce tree from its burden.
I know unless it snows to cover that path
it leads the hunter back to me.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

This poem is part truth, part fancy. In the 1980s I lived at the dead end of a dirt road in rural Colorado. My dogs did drag home a dead dear once and pulled it up onto the porch to feast. But that was the end of it as far as truth goes.

It was bad enough being out for walks with my dogs and getting the occasional pot shot taken at us by stupid people who should never have been issued a hunting license. The federal land my acres backed up against were not hunting lands. Those lands were a few miles away. The house got hit twice over four years by shots that missed the target.

When stupid people mistook myself and my dogs for deer, antelope or elk and fired their rifles in our direction, I did get to practice (and increase) my cuss word vocabulary. Due to lack of use in the new century, my cussing is not as colorful as it once was.

Love & Light. Tree & Leaf.

Kenneth

On Time

Paul looked deeply
into his old dog’s eyes
and knew his old dog
wanted to die.

He lifted his old dog
onto the couch
so the old dog could lay
his gray muzzle on Paul’s lap.

For a time, the old dog
luxuriated in the familiar touch
of Paul’s hand stroking his back
and flank and behind his ears.

Then he sighed contentment
and left.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Outside A Small Town

On the neglected billboard
the wind created a collage
of nine previous messages.

Addictions really.
Imperatives posted
by pushers of agendas

laced with profit motive,
not love. A wandering dog stops
and sniffs the wooden pole that forms the base.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Test Of Time

Dora sat writing poems with a fountain pen.
She wrote outside during a thunderstorm.
The armchair poets would unplug their computers.
The blood and guts poets would thrust their fountain pens skyward.

Dora’s three legged dog balanced comfortably.
Dora rescued the dog from the people who ran her over.
The people who ran her over loved her and owned her.
The dog was happy to be freed from their lazy love.

The dog refused to fear thunder and lightning.
Dora had taught the dog to count between flash and boom.
The dog calculated distance, thus threat.
She hobbled inside when the count got down to two.

Dora will teach the dog to write poetry next.
Three legged poetry will stand the test of time.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney