Surrounded

From the wildflower
protruding granite
where the stream
picks up speed
the aspens draw
Paul’s fascination
into a quizzical expression
as the trees move across
the mountain meadow
without a shepherd
to maintain
their peel-bark layers
as a curtain
around the sacred hart
centered in this grove
as the red deer ambles
lazily grazing.

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

Himalayas

The wet lick of a damp tongue
left on your cheek glistens
a snail’s slow passage.

How did you not tumble
out of sleep as the shell
pulled you up out of the tide.

I mean the bright opals on your cheek
catch the dog’s eye
startled out of its color blindness.

Or you could call it pearlescent
if you prefer to describe it as luster
like a moon bean on the bucket’s raw metal.

Imagine the snail’s destination.
So important it decided
to cross the Himalayas of your bulk.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Meat Beneath The Shell

Paul studied the map
of Ellie’s eyelids
during her mountainside
afternoon nap.

Sunlight might burn
those blood vessels
into her retinas
so he cast shade on her.

The nearby stream
carried this story toward the sea
and wondered how many miles
it would have to bear it.

As Ellie’s past lives gathered
they splashed barefoot in the stream
skirts and jeans hiked up
above their knees.

Paul daydreamed
a way into Ellie’s heart
and unintentionally moved an aspen grove
closer to the stream.

He pondered whether
to count this hour of Ellie’s sleep
as wasted or well used
or a nut snatched by a Stellar’s jay.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

If At First You Don’t Succeed

The dead come to Paul
for him to teach them love
so they may pass
heaven’s gate.

He is poorly equipped
to teach such lessons,
but promised his mother
to do his best.

The first lesson
was a mountain walk
among the aspens
to a place above the tree line.

They spent the night
and watched the fireworks
of the Leonid asteroids
streak the sky

which gave way
to thin lines of clouds
that thickened
and then snow fell.

Since the dead
did not feel cold
they were not affected
by dropping temperatures.

But Paul pulled
his coat close around his body
and so he pulled
the dead close too.

What little warmth he had
he gave to the dead
thinking the disparity
would cause wings to sprout.

Snow angels was as close
as the dead came to growing wings.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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