Message From On High

Do the dead
pardon us
for our trespass
against them
during their lives?

And for speaking
ill of them
after they
are gone
to memory’s pasture?

The postal service
delivered
a postcard
from my father
fifty-two years late.

It was a photo
of Aspen, Colorado
and its snow glossed
mountains
with a blurred

blue note
in his poor
penmanship
that I could not
decipher.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Thor

We met in an aspen grove.
You came from the mountain top
to meet me.
We were near the tree line.
The sun got under our skin.
The wind picked up
and the air cooled quickly.
The sun hid behind
a newly arrived cloud.
The cloud was crow-dark.
You lifted your smoking hand.
The leaves browned as you passed.
The aspen trunk you touched
burst into flame
simultaneously with thunder
that knocked me down.
The trunk split ground to bough.
You whistled to the cloud.
The cloud replied with cold rain.
Heavy shot-glass drops.
My head felt their blows.
My nose bled.
My ears rang for days.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

A few times in my life hiking above ten-thousand feet in the mountains, I have been caught by thunderstorms. Foolishness on my part not paying enough attention to weather forecasts or thinking I could get up the mountain and back with time to spare. It is quite the experience. Both terrifying and glorious.

There Now

Twenty-seven years gone
but my dog is young again
riding shotgun in the car
with her nose pressed
to the crack in the window.

Speed generated wind
brings her a thousand stories
as the great plains
rise gently toward the Rockies
and the forest trails we once walked.

For old times sake
I pull off the highway
for a quarter pounder
and buy her a cheeseburger
that she’ll consume in one bite.

Eventually I park the car
at a trailhead on the Spanish Peaks.
Even her golden ghost refuses
to jump out the open door and walk
the trail up to where the thunder gods hangout.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Collective Cloud Space

For months Paul was silent
on his withdrawal up the mountain.

That was after society
instituted too many rules.

He was ready for rules
protecting the land and water from harm.

He was disgusted by rules
protecting business from accountability.

He suffered a contaminated nightmare
that refused Superfund clean up dollars.

He went up the mountain
so he’d not declare war on the world of men.

This fractious estrangement
began his talking to birds.

I catch glimpses of him when I hike the tree line,
but he always vanishes into the aspens and pines.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peel Of White Bark

Paul recognized he wore a fever.
He was not so sure if it was love or the flu.

Against his conscious will he scratched his nose.
His voice turned into a dull hoarse vapor.

He dreamt himself walking an aspen grove.
He asked for forgiveness for bringing his sickness up the mountain.

Again, he was not sure if his sickness
was love or the flu.

Paul decided to keep his mouth shut about his condition.
His words circled the wagons to defend themselves.

The aspen grove asked him for an apology.
He was not sure an apology engaged forgiveness.

He wanted to be saved, but was not sure
if it was from love or the flu.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Penguins

I see the ocean surround me
everywhere I go.

I live on the mountain
and in deep salty waters.

There are birds that fly
both mountain air and the ocean.

Do not swat at the things that bother you
or you may break their wings.

Sometime last year I realized
my heartbeat powers the tide.

I feel I should have naturally
sensed that rhythm

and recognized it
shortly after I was born.

Maybe puberty pushed it
out of my awareness.

I placed my hand on my heart
to regulate the tides

and alter the moon’s effect
on my love life.

I removed
a rib by mistake

and broke it into a quintuplet
set of Eves—

all penguins swimming
near the tree line.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Both Hands

There are mountains.
They will not always be there.

Nor will love or blood.
Leaving is a constant state, so stop holding on.

If I understood how to be larger than myself
exile, death, and heartbreak would not affect me so.

A single hand clenches rage in a fist.
Two hands bowled fill with prayer and offering.

I cannot take back what has been said
or offer what has been unsaid for too long.

History is a human construction
made of words and interpretation.

Remember that. Words. And interpretation.
I urge you to write your own story. Win or lose.

I am leaving, now. I follow the mountains.
I use two hands to wave goodbye.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney