Paul struck a matchstick
on the box’s striker strip
and it flared to life
with a hiss.

He moved the flaming matchstick
to the open lantern
as he turned a knob
that allowed kerosene to escape.

The manifold ignited
and the barn brightened up
with false dawn
and the horses woke.

In the straw strewn floor
of the first stall
a rabbit trembled
caught inside the barn.

Its smallness confirmed
when the horse rose to its hooves
carefully avoiding the rabbit
though its tail brushed it.

Paul moved to the second stall
leaving a getaway open
for the rabbit
to the barn door and natural light.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Under a Comanche Moon

A horse skeleton calls out to me Giddy up.
I was trespassing in sensible shoes.

Each step I took to exit the unfenced pasture
sprouted another horse skeleton

until there was a herd—heads down
chewing ghost grasses.

My last step stubbed my toe on the base
of a meteor stone that fell here eons ago.

From under that stone a Hipparion skeleton
leaped out of the earth.

I was knocked to the ground
and pierced my side on a flint spearhead.

Some early Native American drew blood
thousands of years after death

in sweet revenge of what
was perpetrated by my ancestors.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Hipparion wikipedia entry

Into The Beyond

I no longer notice the pasture fence.
The morning sun illuminates the white horse.
The breeze carries song snippets.

A hollyhock bloom chewed and swallowed
provides strange clarity.
My body’s edges fail to retain definition.

Fragments of reprieve.
A broken butterfly on the ground.
One wing perfect.

Clear sky shudders its lack of rain.
A muted promise.
A dry expressionless blue.

The white horse takes a carrot from my hand.
Relaxed meditative inertia.
A second carrot. No sticks.

Beyond the sky. Invisible.
Planets spin their courses and trajectories.
Sunna’s hold on them unbreakable.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Taking Stock

Paul undresses.
He strips behind Denver skyline.

He evaluates his body.
There is no cowboy left in him.

Only the remnant bruises, scars
and mended bones.

He buttons a clean shirt.
He alters a setting in his brain

to Taos, New Mexico
and the mountains behind it,

the comfort there
on the rocky slopes

with a string of tourists
on horses that do most of the work.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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

Handicapped Entrance Escape

The horses open the barn door
and wander out into the corral.
Glory in the long, slanted morning light.

They amble to the post by the alder.
Dew damp cobwebs thread tree branches.
The struggle between spider and fly.

They frolic. No chickens underfoot.
Not for a while. Not until Paul
finishes milking two Ayrshire cows by hand.

The horses look for the blue button
by the gate, but find none.
The old rope loop as constant as ever.

Examining the stonewall,
they spot the last ice age markings and striations,
mosses and lichens far older than their kind.

Beneath the windmill, they arrive at the trough
full of cold well water and drink.
Runoff traverses terra cotta tiles to the cistern.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Daily Grind

Wasps swarmed the pears on the ground.
They became so drunk on nectar
I scooped them up by the handful.

The horses press the white fence gate.
They anticipate my approach.
My shirt loaded with apples.

The hill caught my mind this morning.
Thirty feet of elevation that placed me
far above the daily grind.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Hand To Mouth

The white horse gathers other horses
at the gate to the pasture.

Their horse voices drift up the hill
to the apple tree where I sit back to trunk.

The dandelion puffs are too low
to feel the swish of the horses tails.

It is too early in the season
for the apple to be anything but sour.

The walk down the hill offers promise
to the waiting horses,

but proves a lie as my
open hand is empty.

The white horse nuzzles me
and I stroke her neck.

The others push and jostle.
Each wishes attention and something sweet.

I step away from the gate,
collect tall green grasses by the fistful

and deliver them to muzzles
with lips pulled into something like a smile—

the smell of steel from the recently removed bits
is pungent on their breath.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sun Falls

The sun falls again.
It clangs a church bell on the way.

Horses gather at the white fence.
Their discordant tales swish a unified prayer.

In the hollow, crickets speak vespers.
In the hollow, a cow lingers with one last grassy mouthful.

At the church, a divorce ceremony concludes.
A rubber stamp for last Thursday’s decree.

The neighborhood is now whole again.
The diminishing metaphors cease.

A mugger bypasses his next victim.
The slanted light of a falling sun

made her too beautiful to approach. He treasures
the moment too much to abandon it for money.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney