Another Day

Paul crouched by the cold mountain spring.
Ice skirted the stones surrounding it.

He felt solitary. Not lonely.

He felt the shock of a twig snap.
A family of elk weaved through the aspens.

The cold did not affect their thirst.

They moved to the stream below the spring.
Below Paul on the slope.

He felt the desire to be wild.

To live as the elk among the aspens.
To be closer to god in nature.

High on the mountain.

All these thoughts tugged at him to stay.
He retreated to humanity.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney


A second harvest
snuck in before the first freeze.

A can of ripe pitted olives
empty—the attached lid pushed inside.

Ranks of aspens in one direction.
Files in the other.

The bones of a homestead
visible in a few chimney stones.

A path by the creek
maintained by elk and deer.

The raucous call of a scrub jay
from a lonely greyed fence post.

Country gravestones so old
the names are worn off.

A couple pearlescent sapphires
on an ant mound.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Two Miles Past The End of a Lost Road

Paul watched a ghost bird
fly over a stonewall
then vanished.

The stonewall
on the mountain ridge line
sunk deeply and appeared as a raised path.

He believed it marked a boundary
between this world
and the next.

Sometimes when he approached it
he choked up
and moved no closer.

Other times he felt invisible lassoes
fall short of looping him
from beyond.

He saw a Roosevelt Elk
approach the wall opposite him
to nibble greener grasses.

Paul collected the poems
that leaked through the gaps
in the stones

or bubbled up lower on the mountain
as a spring—the fountain of all life
for all he knew.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

We Formed A Quintet

We offered our shouts to the sky.
It was all we had that would rise.

I said it was shouts
but it was a very loud song.

We wished to reach the heavens
to let loved ones know we do alright.

We sang from a mountain top
to make the distance shorter.

It was not the tallest mountain in the state
but the tallest we had close by.

Being autumn enough
elk bugled in accompaniment.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Spirit Animal

When I was a kid
I thought an elk
must be my spirit animal
and the one
I wanted most to be.

I lived to spot them
on long walks
through the mountainous
high country
at the edges of meadows
and through the aspens.

Paul observed
I behaved like
an armadillo—
curled into my shell,
a protected ball, whenever
I got teased.

I guess he was right.

Riding rural
southwest highways
with their countless corpses
marking the pavement
flattens me
like news of another
friend’s death.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney