Paul decides to walk to the ends of the Earth.

He understands he lives on a sphere
and, technically, there is no end to the walking.

He departs on this adventure anyway.

After walking through every type of landscape
traversable by human feet
he comes to a stopping point.

At first it appears to be a red circle
that is slightly domed.

A red button.

It is in a location that feels like the ends of the Earth
but does no look so, being a grassy field.

He stands on the slight red dome and looks around.

There are growing grasses
belt high in every observable direction
that bob in a slight breeze
then he gets dizzy. Very dizzy.

The world flickers by in snapshot images
of all the sites he’s seen in his travels
and the many people he met.

He reals from nausea worried he is going to retch.
His ears fill with the high pitched whine of insect wings.

When the dizziness and nausea clears
Paul stands on his doorstep where he started.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Taos Ski Valley

Paul remembered his first kiss.
It was their fifth date.

He did not know they were dating.
He did not see the kiss coming.

It happened in the afternoon.
In the aspens on a familiar trail.

Paul noticed she behaved oddly that day.
On that walk to Williams Lake.

He expected a difficult story
that he was to listen to and not problem solve.

Then the wonder of the kiss under the aspen glow.
The first that became the first of many.

They held hands all the way back
walking on air to the trailhead.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Where I Tell Dianne about the Civil War

We walk together.
Longer than we imagined.

We know the trail well.
We know where to help each other.

There are no wrong turns.
We know all the trails.

Some dead end at boulders.
Others make loops.

One goes up and over the ridge line.
Another follows the arroyo east.

We pass by strangers.
We hear snippets of their stories.

We hear mountain bike bells.
We hear thrashers and towhees.

We never ascend to the crest.
We remain below the tree line.

We never doubt
our return to the trail head.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Compressed Ash

The drought was plague enough.
Then the pandemic arrived.

National parks taken for granted before
overflowed with local visitors.

Our favorite hikes grew so crowded
we took to obscure trails.

Up and up and up the southeast canyon wall
over three dozen switchbacks.

The pack I wore contained a small lunch
and four water bottles.

We studied up close the mineral beauty
of dry spill-ways down scratchy tuff.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Marlboro Woman

Paul hears a strange voice.
With no one in sight he assumes it is from the ether.
He discounts the idea it might be God.

The voice affects his ears like a good merlot affects his throat.
He relaxes into the act of listening.
It does not sound like anyone he ever knew.

He identifies the voice as a deep female voice.
She talks to him like a buddy not a lover.
She reminds him of when he wore a blue kepi upon his head.

Paul never wore a blue kepi upon his head.
He was never a soldier blue reenacting the Civil War.
He once owned an officer’s red kepi of the Fifth New York Zouaves.

She reminds him of when his beard was long and braided.
He has never grown more than his current goatee.
He wonders why she talks about him instead of herself.

Paul calls out Hey spook show yourself.
The voice from the ether goes quiet.
The sound of a kitchen match strikes Paul’s ear.

Its ignition flares and then it lights a Marlboro.
The voice takes a long draw on the cigarette.
Paul wonders how he knows it is a Marlboro.

A faint glow now exists in the air above where he sits
on a rock among cedars in the Olympic Peninsula.
He decides the glow is the wrong color to be a firefly.

Between puffs the voice speaks about things he does not know.
While listening to the voice it goes from strange to familiar.
As it becomes familiar an image forms in Paul’s eyes.

The mid-thirties woman wears a cowboy hat and cowboy boots.
Her hands rough from labor. Her features plain and weather worn.
Her white western shirt wears dirt stains and grease spots.

Paul pinches himself to be sure he is not dreaming.
He scans the meadow for ruins reclaimed by the forest.
He spots nothing out of the ordinary.

He decides this visitation is like a wrong number.
It is a ten mile walk back to his car at the trailhead.
He rises and walks away.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

I Did Chores Around The Cabin

All day long Paul
adopted a big horn sheep
and roamed the mountain side
with that surefooted attitude.

I mean he shape-shifted
into a ram and went up a rock face
I required climbing equipment
to ascend safely.

I possessed no worry of him
exploring his nature and boundaries
but the distant report of a rifle
quickened my heartbeat.

Paul returned in time to wash up
just before supper was served.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Shattered Kind Of Sleep

Consciousness flickers
a black and white bird
from tree to tree.

Paul sinks to the ground
below a ponderosa
after staggering

a couple hundred yards
from his landing place
after a fall on granite.

Your sister comes to get you
repeats itself in his left ear
his right ear submerged in pine needles.

The ponderosa’s sap drips
There will be a tomorrow
upon his left cheek.

No one stands vigil.
Paul breathes in the shadows of dusk.
Night rotates the forest

and the mountain
back toward the clock-face sun.
Its cold light ricochets everywhere.

The stream works all shifts.
A big cat pads past him
being thirsty not hungry.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


The trailhead plaque
warned of mountain lions
and bears.

A crow perched upon
the top of the plaque
cast dark shadows on the letters.

The presence of no one else
uninstalled the word intrepid
from my self-description.

I wondered if it was a good day to die.
I wondered if it was a good day
to catch a movie matinee instead.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

You Wonder Why I Am Not Home

I dropped my pants
in plain view of everyone watching.

There was no one watching.
I was in the wilderness.

I stood adjacent to the tree
that stopped my downward tumbling.

My tumbling started
when I forgot to pay attention.

The wisp of ice on the trail
gave me no warning.

Warning people is not part of ice’s
job description.

I dropped my pants
to be sure no leg bones were broken.

That proves my head hit the tree too
because when a femur breaks

it breaks out of its fleshy container
in a very messy no-standing-up manner.

The sun hurt my brain behind my eyes.
It was on its descent.

I began limping past the nausea.
The trail was mostly downhill

to the trailhead and the car
two point four miles away.

There was enough fresh blood
in the scrapes and cuts

to draw any animal with a good nose.
All predators have good noses.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Last Hike In The Foothills

Dianne’s fingers pierced an orange.
The car filled with a citrus smell.

A miniature Wild Turkey bottle
started our litter collection.

A coyote trotted up hill away from our approach.
It topped the ridge and looked back.

We counted thirty-two bird nests.
And thirty-two fearfully glaring mothers.

We drew twenty-seven fish symbols
swimming down the sandy arroyo.

An unleashed Jack Russell approached us.
Its owner shouted from a distance He is friendly.

One metallic Happy Birthday balloon
hovered above a rabbitbrush patch.

Sixty-six colorful plastic bags of dog poop
highlight the trail sides.

Nine blue paper face masks
dotted the accumulated litter we toted to the can.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney