Bent to the Task

Lori writes the word winter on paper.
She sketches snowflakes in the margins.

The flakes are not anatomically correct.
They lack symmetry.

Feeling odd, she sketches them
with five and seven points.

Each flake has speared
a long stem of winter grass.

A stiff wind does not blow them free.
Lori shivers from the wind chill.

With a ruler she draws angled shadows.
Straight lines make the scene unnatural.

Lori cannot trace the wind’s arc
or the circular motion of the swirling grasses.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

January Breakup

Paul hollowed his breath.
It felt like a cold foreclosure.
It was winter inside him.

There was no discontent.
There was snow.
There were sheltered places.

Paul took news out of context.
Out of thin air.
Out of turn at the turnstile.

He sharply exhaled snow.
It was all that was in there to go out.
It was cold white sparks.

Paul looked up into the infinite.
Snow fell from on high.
He inhaled deeply.

copyright © 2023 Kenneth P. Gurney

Fifty-Two on the Radar Gun

Ice covers the surface of the birdbath.
The sparrows have no skates.

Nothing disappears.
It is blanketed under snow.

In the colder months I write more
about long scarves and mittens.

The street lights are brighter
reflecting up toward the sky.

A stranger passes by with shovel.
Ten bucks to clear the walkway.

I finger the smoothed object of a snowball
and test my arm’s accuracy on a telephone pole.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

You Tried Being Nothing

A minefield replaced the lawn again.
I told the kids not to play dead.

You told me to learn snow.
I salted your lips before drinking a kiss.

The lawn leaped into a pile of pine needles.
The kids cleaved the wind running.

You told me to blanket the yellow sailboats.
I printed your eyes shut with ellipses.

The lawn knelt in prayer reciting psalms.
The kids recited a failed fable left out of the final draft.

You told me to dance standing still.
I built a shelter to protect us from the sun not the night.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

First Snow

I woke around midnight
with the realization
I forgot to brush my teeth.

I tasted cabbage
in the form of sauerkraut
between my teeth.

Why could I not taste
the grilled red onions
or the mustard laden bratwurst?

I thought I had to floss
with cabbage stuck
where the brush could not pry it loose.

So I walked to the coffee table
and pulled a length of floss
out of a dispenser

but instead of sitting down
to watch late night television
I looked out the window.

In the street light
I saw the first snow of the year
fall to muffle the ground

form tufts upon the cholla
where the thrasher slept
without dreams of human oral hygiene.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Snow is not Necessary

Paul waited at Taos Gorge.
Snow fell blurring the edge.

The trail along the edge
became a bit more treacherous.

I mean the footing
became less sure for the unwary.

Paul did not move.
He felt each foot connect with stone.

Snow collected on the sage
on the ground and on his head and shoulders.

He wore a coat with a hood.
He wore hiking boots.

Standing looking out over the gorge
somehow has the power

to clean something up inside Paul.
It wicks away all his human problems.

He remained hours
and looked into the deep crack in the earth.

The snow swirled on odd air currents
affected by the rift.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney


I came across a long array
of people moving through the darkened woods
as snow pelted bough and face.

They did not stop to eat or light a fire for warmth
but kept moving, yet not tripping
on their long scarves that dangled to their feet.

They gathered around a large rock
with hands outstretched
as if warming fingers near a hearth.

And there they slept till dawn
in circles around the stone
and snored like birds in song.

I tiptoed among them and observed
not a single pack with clothes or food.
Not a child carrying a cherished toy.

I watched as the snow
layered blankets upon them
and wondered if they would rise with the sun.

When the night turned darkest before the dawn
they rose as one and shuffled off
to where one tree set distant lights upon its trunk.

They entered the tree one by one
as if passing through a door.
I stood alone among the oaks.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Not Destined to be a Mainmast

Juncos dot the snow.
Salmon-fattened bears recede.

I mean I spotted tracks
on the ground headed away.

My glasses fog briefly with each breath.
Bare hands ask why no gloves.

Whisper (my dog) bounds
through the new growth cedars.

He sniffs reasons to dig
the earth bare.

We move up the valley
to that one cedar that survived

last century’s lumbermen
for unknown reasons.

If there were five of me
we could just barely link hands around it.

I see this cedar as the grandmother
of the valley.

This long walk through snow
seeks dating advice.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Delicate White Snow Falling

Paul walked west
on the right side of a rural Wisconsin highway.

A cow walked west
and the left side of the same highway.

Paul scanned the flat farmland
through a line of leafless trees

and saw no farmer or farm house
or anything dairy.

The cow occasionally bent over
for a new mouthful of grass.

Paul mentally flipped through
a book on Euclidean Geometry

thinking that is where
an explanation would be.

The cow matched Paul’s pace
and his halts

but not his delving for an answer
to what should not be a question.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Outside Port Angeles

Snow falls on the ocean
and approaches the cedars on land.

The mud at the side of a stream
that enters the ocean hardens by freeze.

Deer birds big cats hide themselves
as the fall thickens, speckles my line of sight.

I brought you here
into these ancient woods

under these conditions
thinking it might change you.

Foolish me.
But not disappointed

at your requests to go home
and make hot chocolate

for a seat by the hearth
to watch the dancing flames.

The snow collects on your long hair
scarf and shoulders.

I appreciate such beauty
and your bothered brown eyes.

You call out to our dog Home!
so she would know

we turned around
even though she was out of sight

bounding though the trees after a rabbit
not letting any snow collect on her back.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney