Down Payment

Paul held the cool soil in his bare hand.
He saw some small wood dust in the mix—
last year’s labor with a saw and four-by-fours.

The nearby fence post stands out—
not weathered nearly as much as those adjacent
and two inches taller.

The wire keeps the goats in
but not the coyotes out
or the rabbits from the garden.

Paul wakes from a dream in piñon shade.
The endless blue stretches to the horizon.
No fence separates his land from the wilderness.

Not enough wood present for miles
to build a coyote fence
in the manner of previous centuries.

A rabbit flees rabbitbrush.
A nearby scrub jay makes its harsh call.
A vapor trail slices the sky.

This forty acres off a dirt road with no number
requires another couple years
of Paul making city wages

before a house blossoms from the dirt
or a fence marks the boundary
or a single goat chews the buffalo grass.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Brain Veering

Their footprints
registered as signs of war.

A shepherd
recognized the strut

the bent
and broken grasses.

A roan horse
followed Paul all the way

back to the homestead
then waited at the stable door

for Paul to open it
and let the horse in.

Paul removed
his saber and scabbard

hung them
over the mantle piece

where his
West Point diploma leaned

against a mason jar
that contained brandied peaches.

Without a fistfight
or any back talk

Paul declared
the war over

though he never informed
the other side.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney