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


On the flanks
of the Sandia mountains
a thousand steps
above the popular trails
only the breeze
and bird songs
bend my ear
as my eyes
watch a mountain bicyclist
silently hop
the natural moguls
then his chain rattles
his shocks squeak
and the frame
bangs his back side
for a fleeting.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Way Far From The River

smoky amble
barely keyed snake
tongue-dart nosing
between sage branches
between flirts and pitches
re-dried noodles
charred firestones
just enough motion
to glide sound

barrelhead cactus
red bloom fires
living room escape
deer scat pebbly mounds
scree scramble
calm whiptail attention
in heated-rock sunlight

turquoise rimmed vugg
granite alleyway
secret up the valley walls
finger brushes million year old
weather stains

peace yearning musician
seated in stream bed greenway
native flute notes crabapple blossoms
toe tap on water rounded stones

call to serendipitous friends
a silvery flask tipped
no, a stainless water bottle
a twirl of bushtits
a solitary sandhill crane
way far from the river

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Walking A Local Trail

Tree limbs replace my bones.
A thing I do to feel rooted to a place.

I stand straddling a slight stream.
I am the Colossus of Rhodes.

In the hollow the wind swoops down
and steals my cap.

Smoke, miles filtered by pine needles,
is a barely recognizable sniff.

The forrest’s palpable pulse
requires shrewd awareness.

The canyon towhee’s backward hop
is most endearing.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


The interior of my limb folded inward.
I wept before I hit the ground.

My ankle, bent in an unnatural direction,
created darkness.

In the darkness my body chilled.
My ghost walked around me appraising the damage.

I woke to white sparks and nausea.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry, Ankle. Sorry.

The song of the trailhead was faint.
Ravens carried snippets to breadcrumb the way back.

My face bathed in changing shades of pain
studied and improved my one footed off-balance hop.

My teeth tightly clenched the wind between them
and tore off hunks of it to swallow whole.

I dropped pride from my bearing
to lighten the load.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


During my years living in the western mountain ranges of the USA, I have helped three people off mountains and back to their cars at the trailheads. In all three cases the people were joggers or runners who wrecked their ankles on a root or uneven ground. The longest distance to the trailhead was about three miles from where I found the person sitting on a rock resting before another session of hopping.

In each case, the runner was running alone in the wilderness. Not the best idea. Sometimes things outside of your control go wrong and you need help. In one case the person had hopped & waited over two hours before I happened along. We saw no one on the way back to the trailhead.

My ankles got wrecked playing pickup basketball games when I came down with a rebound and landed wrong on someone’s foot. This happened a couple times to each ankle. I did have a fall down a steep slope when I slipped on some leaf-covered ice and tumbled about 70 feet into a tree. It was a case of paying attention to the pretty girl I was with, instead of the trail.

The only time I have suffered an injury that caused me to blackout was on a slow ground ball hit to third in a baseball game. I sprinted to first for a bang-bang call of Out by the umpire. My foot hit the base wrong and I tore my meniscus in my right knee. I do not remember hitting the ground the pain lanced through me so hard and fierce.

Take care of yourselves in sports and other activities. As I grow older, each day those injuries received when young remind me they are there in little ways. And I have physical therapy to do every day to keep everything functioning as close to properly as possible.

Love & Light.