The tourniquet of words
did not stop the bleeding.

We were together once.
One soul, we thought in our youthful foolishness.

We stood in the land that connects everything—
separate, alone, curled around a mutual pain.

Our brief humanity stunted by fear
created an incandescent light.

We used to kneel together and spoke prayers
unaware that listening was prayer.

We got stuck a second time
hearts blinking, not beating—

the bio-chemical love, hormone surge
bodies dumb, automated by nature.

You did not leave me nor I you.
We left each other under mutual consent.

There are no reparations for this liberating torment—
this intentional vow breaking.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul holds a fist full of crickets.
He fears they are suicidal.

They launched themselves
from the grassy bank

into the lazy stream
filled with trout.

The fish he snatched
the crickets away from

gives him an accusatory stare
and he worries

his saving the crickets
condemns the fish to hunger.

One cricket squeezes through Paul’s fingers
and launches itself into the current.

The fish gobbles up the cricket
then swims away from Paul’s empty hand.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

An interesting TED talk by Ed Yong about parasites in nature is at this link.

Where I Tell Dianne about the Civil War

We walk together.
Longer than we imagined.

We know the trail well.
We know where to help each other.

There are no wrong turns.
We know all the trails.

Some dead end at boulders.
Others make loops.

One goes up and over the ridge line.
Another follows the arroyo east.

We pass by strangers.
We hear snippets of their stories.

We hear mountain bike bells.
We hear thrashers and towhees.

We never ascend to the crest.
We remain below the tree line.

We never doubt
our return to the trail head.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Aspen Glow

Paul writes nature poems
on top of nature
in an act of literary graffiti.

The wind dismembers his poems quickly.
It mistakes the black ink
as industrial soot from all over the world.

Some days Paul writes city poems
on the natural landscape
to prepare it for urban sprawl.

The wind moves those poems around too
but more like paper litter
that flutters like dropped leaves.

He has lived in Taos New Mexico
for three years
and has no friends

from the Taos Pueblo
the Land Grant hispanic community
or the 60’s hippy generation.

He knows he moved to Taos
to stroke the mountain flanks
with his eyes.

To meet the ethereal beings
that live off of the hum
and draw rainbows down from the clouds.

A magpie lifts him out of this thinking
with a long sentence of magpie words.
He has not yet mastered magpie.

He begins writing a spirit poem
on the air in front of him
in a slanted sun script.

The magpie snatches the first line
flies with it up into an aspen
and drapes it on a branch like tinsel.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul sits in nature.
He does not write a nature poem.

He sees a burger wrapper
rolled by the wind across his field of vision.

He gets up
removes the wrapper from this nature scene

and sits back down on brown pine needles
at the base of a ponderosa.

Paul recognizes he sits in nature
and the burger wrapper sits wadded up

in his left hip pocket
and wonders if that is separation enough?

He recognizes his father
would not think about such things.

His father would enjoy the mountain
and probably would not have picked up

the burger wrapper
figuring some very small animal would not starve

because it found the cheese and ketchup
stuck on the wrapper.

Annoyed Paul gets up and starts down the mountain
out of nature and back to the trailhead.

There might as well be a red line
at the edge of the trailhead parking lot.

One side would be marked nature.
The other side would be labeled not-nature.

Paul recognizes it is an artificial line
that he places on the trailhead parking lot.

It delineates where the feeling of Away enters his body.
Away from Taos New Mexico.

Away from traffic. From mechanical noises.
Away from cultural differences and local politics.

Away from trash littering the street.
Away from everything he needs to get away from.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


I stand
facing the window
with a faint image
of a full length mirror
on the wall behind me
existing in
the window’s reflectivity.

I see
the glassy image
of my bare backside
imposed over
all the nature
my front yard

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul does not like poetry.
Paul does not like other people’s poetry.
Paul does not like some people’s poetry.
Paul does not like incoherent rambling poems.
Paul does not like thinly stretched rhyming poems.
Paul does not like overly green nature poems with yarrow.
Paul does not like putting green poems.
Paul does not like new mother changing soiled diapers poems.

Paul does not like apple pie poems
unless the poet provides slices of apple pie to all attendants.

Paul does not like Spanish grandmother
making tortillas by hand poems.

Paul liked those poem categories the first twenty times
he heard them, but has grown weary of them
over the poetry slam seasons.

Paul likes hot meals better than poems about hot meals.
Paul likes sex better than poems about sex.
Paul likes walking in nature better than hearing nature poems.
Paul likes playing baseball better than hearing
Mighty Casey at the Bat or Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

Paul supports his independent book shop
by purchasing copious amounts of small press
and university press poetry books.

Paul reads each poetry book once
then places them in a sidewalk poetry edition little library box.

Paul keeps one out of every one hundred
poetry books he purchases to collect dust on a bookshelf.

Paul has become his own get off my lawn poem
when it comes to poetry.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Delphi Sits Upon Her Throne

Her throne is an exposed rocky spot
at the top of a wooded hill.

The stone admits it is not simple granite
but embodies a silent and patient yet local god.

Delphi enjoys laying on the sun warmed rock
and conversing with the local deity.

Their words vibrate the forest around them.
They speak with that much weight.

Sometimes the forest god joins them
in the guise of an animal

or under the bark and in the sap
of the nearest ponderosa pine.

Sometimes the three of them watch the eternal dance
as performed by the stars in the night sky.

Once I accompanied Delphi to the wooded hill.
We sat upon the rock together.

The local god spoke a greeting to me.
I felt indescribably vulnerable

as if its silent voice was a key
that opened me up for the whole world to view.

As fear nearly pushed me past the edge
Delphi clutched my hand.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dominant Wavelength

The woman who kicks and screams
on the carpeted floor of the group room
knows she won’t make it,
anytime soon, away from that place
in the barn where she hides
the straight edge razor
that cuts the even rows in her thigh.

The paint she spreads on canvas
never looks like anything identifiable
from nature, but something abstract,
from the deeper parts of nurture,
with black lines—that appear to be
from a child’s coloring book
or a church’s stained glass windows—
that depict the stories of unnamed saints
and frame nothing she can put a name to.

There are one-hundred and three scars
in her flesh that attempt to represent
what is repressed and somehow
might be fixed, like the blue she says
is wrong, not of itself, but in the upper right
of her latest canvas—the blue that is too dark
but has dried and refuses to mix
with white for a lighter shade.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


On Amtrak, Empire Builder, Chicago to Seattle,
a woman unwraps a newspaper cone
containing warm cinnamon almonds.
The aroma attracts the attention
of everyone in the car.

Her liberal kindness employs
a take two policy for each person.
She feasts upon fifty smiles,
stories from three willing to join her,
her view out the window.

They spot a lone coyote
sprinting across a barren space
to trigger a mass ascension
of snow geese at a lake’s edge
ice thin and crackly.

The coyote comes away
with a goose one wingbeat too slow
to escape gravity and the victory prance
that carries it home.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney