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

Away

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

Militiaman

You have to go really far back into the past
to discover the guy who invented War.

It could be it was created by committee
but I bet it was one guy.

It probably had something to do with a woman
but was not the woman’s fault.

His genetic fingerprint traces through the ages
up to present day Oregon

and some Fox Opinion watching militiaman
whose recent ancestors killed Indians

in the American west
on the land he now claims as his forever.

He smokes Marlboro cigarettes
because he has to wage war against his lungs

as well as the local sheriff
and the town’s parking ordinances.

He has thirty-seven outstanding parking tickets
with fines and late penalties over twenty-five hundred dollars.

If he could he would pin the tickets to his chest
like ribboned medals of valor.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

No Thunder No Lightning

Paul asked God to come down
and dangle feet off the end of the pier into the lake—
for them to have a talk about important things.

Paul pushed a tune out of a penny whistle while waiting.
He watched his mirroring image in the lake surface.
How it wobbled through his recent ups and downs.

God arrived as a gentle rain
that settled in the mountain valley
and speckled all the land and water in sight.

Paul spoke his most intimate conversation
with face lifted into the rain.
Drops occasionally interrupted a word

as they hit his mouth deep in his throat.
Or it could be that he choked up
with tears hidden by the falling water.

During this time Paul found his tongue
was made of cedar and magpie feathers
and his skin felt like it unraveled to expose his inner self.

The rain ended as sudden as it began.
Paul felt God rise back to the god place
as the sunshine returned.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

We Formed A Quintet

We offered our shouts to the sky.
It was all we had that would rise.

I said it was shouts
but it was a very loud song.

We wished to reach the heavens
to let loved ones know we do alright.

We sang from a mountain top
to make the distance shorter.

It was not the tallest mountain in the state
but the tallest we had close by.

Being autumn enough
elk bugled in accompaniment.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Faculties

Paul screams.
He is not hurt.
This is not an emergency.
He tests the soundscape.

Much of the soundscape
is beyond human capacity to hear.
Just like more of the scent-scape
is available for dogs.

Every animal goes quiet
as Paul’s scream
echos off the mountainside
and pinballs through the tall pines.

The wind ignores him.
The lake threatens
to drag him under and drown him
if he does it again.

Paul does not understand the danger.
The lake’s voice is beyond his hearing.
Just like the voices of the dead
are beyond his hearing.

In the wake of his scream
Paul remains quiet
until and beyond
the animal sounds returning.

He checks his compass.
North moved a fraction of a degree southeast.
But not enough for Paul’s eye or compass
to register the change.

He wonders why God created humans
so large amounts of data is unavailable to them.
God replies Use it or Lose it.
But the sentence is beyond Paul’s hearing.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peanuts & Cracker Jack

Paul caught a fly ball.
He caught it by a mountain stream.
He assumed is was a foul ball.

He looked around
but no baseball field was in sight.
No ball court or other athletic facility was in sight either.

Paul pocketed the ball
since there were no visible ballplayers
to throw the ball back to.

For a moment he thought
he might be a character in a Kinsella baseball story
but this was New Mexico not Iowa.

He thought God might being playing catch with him.
Or the disembodied voice from Field of Dreams.
To have a catch, he corrected himself.

Paul took the ball out of his pocket
and tossed it as high as he could.
The ball did not reach the low clouds.

It did return to earth a few feet away.
Paul stumbled on a rock
trying to catch it again.

He fell and bumped his head on a different rock
which refused to take responsibility
for Paul’s hearing Take Me Out To The Ball Game.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Everyone Silent

Whatever it is that scares you
does a magnificent job of being scary
if the birds cease twittering
and insects hide their buzz
from air now bereft of the slightest breeze
because the wind is too frightened
to move.

But I know you will be out there
with your wooden sword
and a blanket substituting
for a superhero’s cape
to deal with the monster
that guiltlessly kills without remorse
or seems mostly like a great maw
that gobbles things up
leaving behind a void
as if all matter was consumed
by a black hole rolling
across the neighborhood.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Cake or Death

We use the nice word Pandemic
instead of The Plague
or better Black Death.

I find it reasonable to believe
if everyday folks
saw in everyday life

the blueish bodies removed
from apartment buildings
or neighborhood homes

only the die-hard
would reject the vaccine injection
provided by science and the state.

Nothing like seeing the consequences
before you choose Cake or Death
for the cake to look very tasty

even if you detest German Chocolate
or Lemon Poppy Seed
and really really want a tasty bite of Angel Food.

How silly of me to suggest
vaccine hesitancy is a branding issue
and not a simple case of ostrich syndrome.

I could suggest it is opposition politics
gone to insane lengths of differentiation
with a full fledged propaganda machine

profiting from the chaos and carnage
but that would sound too much
like a far-out conspiracy theory

where some one-percenters
formed a diabolical cabal
to place one of their own in charge

through democracy’s demise
to institute an authoritarian regime
just so they could bring back slavery

since there are inferences
of a minimum wage hike
and pressure to provide everyone with health care.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

note

The expression Cake or Death is taken from an Eddie Izzard comedy performance in his 1999 video Dressed to Kill.

Refraction

Paul stands in a corridor.
He calls it a hallway.

We could call it a library
since books line both walls.

He is there to locate
the Encyclopedia Britannica

even though we stand
in the United States of America.

He looks up Fata Morgana
and he is directed to Morgan le Fay

Morgan of the Faeries and faerie castles—
mirages at the horizon line.

Though the entry speaks of the Straits of Messina
between Sicily and Italy’s toe

Paul believes it is the same
between Port Angeles Washington

and Victoria British Columbia
crossing the strait of Juan de Fuca.

Not today though since vaporous fog
blocks any view looking north

and the coast guard’s fog horn
rattles the cups in the cupboard.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney