Sea to Shining Sea

I traveled these United States
to see the wonders of the continent
and harmlessly flirt with cafe waitresses.

As I traveled I learned the word united
holds looser connections
than the dictionary suggests.

We are ten thousand cultures
based on personal freedom of expression
and dodging responsibility.

The stripes of the flag
might as well represent bloody bandages
on our collective social wounds—

not the original thirteen colonies
steeped in racism, genocide
and slavery.

I found the practice of religion common.
But it was mostly Sunday only Christianity.
Not something lived through each breath.

I met a great deal of kindness
but I was a tourist. Not homeless or single
struggling to raise a child alone.

On clear nights I noticed
the stars shone down upon all of us
with the same intensity.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


Paul can pack the car
in fifteen minutes
and not forget the hamsters
if he feels the world
is about to explode
with happiness
too big for his heart
to contain.
Off he will drive
with a honey bear
tipping off the top
of the car’s roof
when he crosses the bump
at the end of the driveway
to some place
unknown to us
and him
(until he finds it)
where the loudest sound
is the forest growing
and god does not mix
with the second
and nights have
no street-lamps
to block the stars.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Why I Have A List Of Favorite Rest Stops

Sadness persists in me.
Like it is an uncharted organ.

Bicycling does much to diminish it.
Photo albums tend to intensify it.

Blueberries on my morning yogurt
signify I have a taste for blueberries.

There are days sadness
pulls me deeper inside myself.

Other days it pushes me
outside my skin.

Drinking shrinks it briefly
then expands it to galactic dimensions.

As sad experiences add up
I do my best to relabel them neutrally.

There is something about driving long distances
that vibrates sadness out of my pores

to steadily drip on the pavement
of the interstate highways I traverse.

I once tried the nomad lifestyle
because of this fact

but ran out of novel roads to drive
at Neah Bay with a view of Waadah Island.

I threw nine amens and hale-Mary’d
my St. Christopher medallion into the ocean

where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the sea
trusting that would pacify my sadness.

It did not. My sadness suggested
we head back to Albuquerque

and the surrounding desert
since the green chile harvest started that week.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney


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

I Trusted The North Star

As a kid,
each mile
I pedaled
from home
grew the world

My parents
helped me
grow the world
by taking
summer vacations
to national parks
all over
the lower
the adjacent
Canadian provinces
and a special trip
over the Pacific
to Hawaii.

When I reached
my majority
and purchased
my first car
I expanded
the world
to the limits
of my courage
by taking jobs
in nine different states
over the years.

All this growth
then sped up
on my last move
where I
stopped short
of Moab, Utah
and landed in
where I met
and stayed.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Phantom Canyon Road

I drove a road too narrow
up a mountain
that crossed
fifteen cold streams.

The speakers
pushed Bach
into the cabin
and out the windows
to tumble
into the rocks
and clouds

There was
no way around
the mountain goat
who won
the staring contest
with the jeep’s

When I opened
the door
to shoo it away
my first step
would have been
my last
if I had taken it.

The goat
drank its fill
and moved
up the rock face.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney


1987 was the last time I drove Phantom Canyon Road (Colorado Tourism Link) up the south side of mountains leading to Pike’s Peak and into the town of Cripple Creek. I am sure they have made improvements on the road over the years. Back then wide or tall vehicles could not take the road because low and narrow tunnels prevented forward movement. There were few turnouts to allow passing and turning around was impossible once you started upward.

In The Bloodstream

Where lies the key?
I checked every pocket.
Every nook and cranny.

In and under
fifty-three self-help books
by domestic and foreign authors.

At a job fair I learned
I should use my gifts
toward my perfect career

which left me with the choice
of joining the French Foreign Legion
or becoming a suicide bomber.

As I practice exhaling the apocalypse
and envisioning a future
less bright than a nuclear explosion,

I am certain the mightiest proof
of my inner strength
is that I decided to make a career

out of bicycling from my front door
to Who-Knows-Where America
with the notion of reaching Nirvana

somewhere in between
leaving it all behind
and a collision with an untoward fate.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney