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The Poetry Of   
Kenneth P. Gurney           


There is a Muslim in Pakistan
who I've never met,
never seen on TV,
never imagined
before this moment.

His left foot shifts with his weight
while standing in a boat.

His right foot depresses the sand
at the outgoing tide's tug.

His nets are mended and the fog
disperses as the wind rises.

My mind holds this moment,
slows it down, while I insert
a prayer for his safety on the sea,
a prayer that calms his loving wife
who worries, a prayer for his young
sons and daughters
who require his hard work.

I do not know why I pray for him,
but I do so, earnestly.
Half a world away an oarsman
pulls his small craft into the unsteady sea,

sets sail and fishes so his family may eat,
so a few small coins may provide.


It is the old loneliness
that crushes the Conquistadors:

the murder of the sleeping,
the unsung martyrs.

My country of white sands,
of fractured glass sheen,

failed to mark the Athabaskan
migration, the old bone locations.

It is like the Roman
to forget the Etruscan,

to build on the bones
of slaughtered towns,

to construct paved roads
over grass-edged paths

that once lead to deer herds,
to flocks that blackened the sky.


I know the sun over the Sangre de Christo Mountains
is enough to crack open the celestial door
                     and I believe the press of your weight, the scent
of love hung in the morning air to dry, will prop
my heart open and give my eyes time
                     to see myself as I am.

I think my sunny walks through the woods
upon the mountains, as they are, as they
                     may exist overlapped by the next world,
feed that hungry part of me that craves
the attention of ghosts, of spirits, of gods
                     who walk the earth this day.

I use the old tragedies to learn to be beyond myself,
to extend my senses into birds' nests, beehives,
                     the deep warrens of marmots, badgers.
I use the old lost feeling as a new starting point to explore
the familiar from different angles, the unfamiliar
                     with the light over my shoulder.

As much as I imagine your existence, conjure
in the manner of medieval sorcerers, on this mountain
                     you come straight from the green, the granite—
no thousand years of my dreaming
can ever bring you here from the broken sky,
                     as you appear from a thunderclap.

But you say, you travel across a great multitude
of overlapping earths, shifting from plane to plane,
                     guided by constant dark stars.
But you say, as we clasp hands, I waited for you
to come up to the sky, to open the locked door
                     to this world of your perception.

Countless suns move from dawn to noon to dusk
and the shadow moon of another earth floats visible
                     through the crack in the sky,
but it is the worlds, the planets residing in your eyes
that draw me in, your gravity, a smile brighter
                     than the nearest star.

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