Overnight Excursion

Paul leaves.
He drives away between two incidences.

One is in the open.
The other is underground.

He drives to Taos to take a room.
He drives to Taos Mountain.

On its flanks he expects to walk
the two incidences into understanding.

He does not expect the aspens or ponderosas to help.
Often they do in silent ways.

He does not expect the rocky ground to help.
Often it does with painful insight.

When he walks Taos Mountain
he walks that place that is half dream half real.

He takes himself to the shadow world.
The mountain does not lead him or lead him astray.

It is a place in his mind where pink
and indigo stripe the sky.

It is a place of thought and not-thought.
Where walking merges everything together.

The open incident speaks for itself.
The underground incident emerges in pictures.

Pictures borrowed from memory to create metaphor.
It requires time to learn language to describe itself.

Paul walks into a new vocabulary by the time
he reaches the lake.

He walks until light is wrung from the sky.
He returns to Taos for sleep.

He returns to us the next day.
He goes into his studio and writes.

copyright © 2021 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

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

Not A Fairy Tale

Paul wrote a love story.
It was a hate story too.

Overall on the imagined scales of justice
love outweighed hate a hundred to one.

The problem was a linear story
weighs things at different times.

There was a plot point two-thirds of the way
through the story

that hate in the fictional wife’s mind
tipped the scale against her husband

on the day she learned
he had an affair with her sister.

Although both Leviticus and Deuteronomy
prescribe death for adulterers

the wife chose leaving
the house that was not a home anymore—

to not be a wife anymore
and to find another hand to hold her hand.

Being in her thirties she was not afraid
of dying of loneliness.

She packed her few things and left
on a great American road trip.

She discovered in her third hotel room
that she did not miss

the sound of manly feet on the floor at night
or picking up his socks from around the house.

The day she was in Taos New Mexico
she saw a triple rainbow against the mountains.

She declared it a sign.
A new life fell into place as if waiting for her.

The man who once was her husband
married the woman who remained her sister.

She did not attend the wedding.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Arrival

Paul stands alone
in the crowded town square.

Market day and he
just stepped off the bus

duffel bag in hand
a blue kepi on his head.

Pendleton wool jacket
over blue jeans, over boots.

New town. New Job.
New friends to be made.

A tarot reader insists on
an eight hour minimum wage day

to hint at fortune
and future.

Paul notes the market’s attendants
from bejeweled upper class

to grimy huddles
of the homeless.

A girl smokes a cigarette.
It clouds her beauty.

A Christmas tree blinks
adjacent to a gazebo

where a mariachi band
plays Christian holiday standards.

He types an address
into his smart phone—

two point three mile walk
to an empty apartment

and, being Sunday,
no heat or electric

until tomorrow
after his first day on the job.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Dennis Hopper Photo Over A Kiva Fireplace

Paul stays
foggy and drizzly
all day long.

Hot chocolate
does nothing
to alter his forecast.

Somewhere
far away in Europe
the hills echo

with World War II
as old ordnance
claims a milk cow.

Paul drifts up Taos’ Paseo
to prospect the sky
for three hundred thirty days

of brilliant sunshine,
magnificent sunsets
and light that entraps artists.

The purple thistles
seem out of season
but opportunistic

while climate change
performs its namesake duties
pressuring mercury.

Adobe Bar electrifies wooden music
and a spontaneous round
on Guinness pints.

The Hum contemplates
who hears it and who does not
separating the struggling Paul

for another day’s distraction
of journaling on rolling papers
and retreating into that fog.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Taking Stock

Paul undresses.
He strips behind Denver skyline.

He evaluates his body.
There is no cowboy left in him.

Only the remnant bruises, scars
and mended bones.

He buttons a clean shirt.
He alters a setting in his brain

to Taos, New Mexico
and the mountains behind it,

the comfort there
on the rocky slopes

with a string of tourists
on horses that do most of the work.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Three Times A Week

Blonde-One stops
at path-side stones
to sniff the local news.
She takes her time.

Her vinegar attitude
toward strangers
keeps them at a respectful distance.
We meet only two.

She stops to chew
a thorn out of her paw
instead of limping
to keep pace with me.

Blonde-One accompanies me
on the dry trail above Taos:
south of the Reservation,
north of the road to Angel Fire.

The trail covers a six mile loop.
In spite of the fact she has aged
she makes the round trip
because it is What we do.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

Today marks the first day of year three in my goal to post one poem per day for three full years. So two years are completed. For those of you who have followed me on this journey, thank you.

Yes. Blonde-One was the name of one of my dogs. She was a rescue that was matched up with the black furred dog I already had. His name was Shadow, more because he shadowed my movements as a puppy than his black fur. I planned to keep Blonde-One nameless for a week to ten days to get an idea of her personality, but she quickly understood the descriptor I used when we met other people meant her. So Blonde-One stuck because she answered to it.

Hum

When I left Chicago
I spent part of the next year
driving the country to visit
as potential places to live.
I picked out of Places Rated.

I figured the right place
would feel like the right place,
my bones would stop aching
and a sense of peace
would settle upon me
as I settled into a new home.

I drove coast to coast.
Along the way I stopped
at many historic sites
for a blacktop education
of American history.
I evolved both spiritually
and physically.

I stopped for a few days
in: Concord, New Hampshire;
Asheville, North Carolina;
Memphis, Tennessee;
Wichita, Kansas;
Boulder, Colorado;
Carson City, Nevada;
Davis, California;
and many other places,
but failed to lodge
in a geography or society.

On my way back
to my starting point,
my car broke down
in Taos, New Mexico.
The Land of Entrapment
as the saying skews.
I merely continued
a long tradition of timely
auto incapacitation.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

About Face

It begins with the bridge into this world.
It recedes as you walk into birth.
You remember it as a song echoing the gap it spanned.
That song defies the delivery, the static wailing.

In times of crises that song rises in your cells.
It works to dispel your denial of the truth.
Your pinched fingers clean dead moths from a window sill
and then their dust from your hands.

You know there are two cliff faces where you stand.
One is real, rock hard, with a river running the bottom.
The other is the choice between conflicting actions,
endings and beginnings and definitions of both.

The real cliff is not the same as when you last visited.
This time tree branches cluster with leaves.
The pungent sage in the air.
The thistles wear the purple of popes.

You arrive here remembering the barrenness.
At least that is what you tell yourself.
But it was the other chasm that requires bridging
that brought you here and a memory of doing so once.

Suddenly, you doubt you fed the dog this morning.
How could you be so negligent?
Doubt roughs you up, both inside and out.
It rubs you raw as it smooths out a thought.

The song breaks through for a moment
and spans the physical chasm with a dusty light.
You feel a leap of faith is required
to bound over the bridge onto a solution.

But you take a step back from both edges.
You realize you do not require definitions
of endings and beginnings.
They are synonymous and daily in appearance.

A line of quail speed past you, take up your attention
and turn you around to follow them.
First with your eyes. Then with your feet.
You are back at your car. Seven miles from your dog.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

When I lived in Taos, NM in the late 1990s, I often went to the Taos Gorge and the trailhead there. I went for walking. I went for the beauty of the mesas. I went for the rent in the earth and the river far below.

Depression was a lot worse for me back then than it is today. I would go to the gorge to think, to processes the multitude of experiences that happened in a week or in the past. There is something about larger than humanity geography that humbles this person. Evidence that the world is far larger than yourself. Why I like living in the mountains, though a sea or great lake coast will do in a pinch.

During my years in Taos, the gorge became a place the people traveled across the country to commit suicide. From the highway bridge to the bottom is more than 800 feet. Some of the people leapt from the edge of the gorge instead of the bridge. The walls are fairly sheer and the rocks jagged enough.

I remember puzzling out my past and my present either in the mountains or along the gorge. My latest therapy session epiphanies. My appreciation of being alone and how it conflicted with a desire for connection. And so on.

Nature had (and has) a way of grounding me. Whether it is the flight of hawk in the gorge. Or the color of a flower bloom. Or the unexpected appearance of an animal. Magpies were favorites. I never felt lonely with magpies about.

I return to this basic poem and write it anew at least once a year. Similar, but different. The gorge. The impassable. And needing to span the fall to go forward. Or to recognize that gulf in the mind is just an old conviction and can be changed with altering attitude or perception.

I seem to rewrite this poem observing myself, separate from myself. Hence the You, even though I am speaking of my footsteps and the nature I stand in.

Love & Light

Kenneth