Garden Spots

I’ve wandered this desert so long,
the shitty little towns
appear inviting.

Each one has two or three saloons
per gas station
and stray dogs by the dozens.

Occasionally I spot
a state patrol car outside a diner
and presume a waitress-romance

seeing as not much else
seems to be in play
to sustain a single person.

The wild horses, heads down,
approach watered yards
and anything growing green.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Interviewing

A dog waits for the right person.
Her nose records stories.

The right person will know her name.
There will be a ball of the right size.

It will not squeak.
No squeaky toys!

The yard will house three point two squirrels.
She will keep the squirrels treed.

The person will understand her contract
prohibits killing squirrels.

As long as they stay in trees.
On the ground—fair game.

Her right person will not use her
to torment frightened people onto slave ships.

Her right person allows laborers to unionize
and drive hard, but fair bargains.

No rounding up cattle.
They have enough problems.

In a famine her right person
will share the last scrap of food with her.

She half-closes her eyes
and sniffs more stories as they walk by.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

How We Bend

A dozen drops
dot the window.
A low yield cloud.
A dark teasing.
Mocking thunder.
Skull echo chamber.
Wine glass on the table
reverberates,
moves millimeters.

The phone rings once.
Election season.
Poling questions.
Unexpressed selections.
Seven weeks out.
Weight of lies.
Hands ready to blacken
little ovals.

My pandemic face hides loss.
A count to three.
Remorse springs
from long silences.
The dead might as well
have been disappeared
by the Administration.
Hands rough
from washing.
The grocery’s spare shelves.
My dog does not
recognize me
in my black mask.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Heralds

I failed to appreciate that this thunderstorm
formed a thousand miles ago
and traveled all this way for us.

It was an unusual storm.
It washed sin from the body,
but not dust from the sky.

The thunder rolled with laughter.
The lightning struck
like a flash of wit.

It affected only those people
who went out into the wonder
of the darkened sky.

Those who took cover
mistook the humility in the air
for public humiliation.

They hid behind brick and mortar,
unlike my dogs
who clamored to get outside.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

First Thing

Paul woke up.
The remnants of a hot dog bun
littered his sheets and blankets.
He looked into the bathroom mirror
and asked, What happened?

His mirror image
launched into a long story
about his golden retriever
leaping out of an airplane,
the parachute not opening,
the impact destroying
the church steeple
and how he ate his sorrow
all hours of the night.

Paul stood slack jawed
as his mirror image
finished off the story
with gory embellishments
too terrible to hear.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Childhood Reenactment

My pet mice were named
Joseph and Mary.

One of the six in the litter
had to be named Jesus.

But which one that lay
on the shredded paper nest?

Our dog enacted the roles
of all the barn animals each day for treats.

Our outside motion sensor light
was the Star of Wonder.

Three house finches at the window
played the Wise Men.

Not taking us seriously,
our local youth priest mock-blessed

the liquid inside the no drip
small animal water bottle.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

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