John Pursley III



We walked around the lake, down through the runoff to take pictures of the damage—where, even after the rain stopped, water still ran over the dam & down into the gully, weaving among the rocks. My father took pictures of washed-out fences, each field left fallow, the pine trees uprooted, their black roots a rot of contorted tangles, blazon—just slightly—with whatever light jack-wedged its way beneath the gnarled brushwood of sycamore & spruce, the firs & whatnot. While birds rebuilt, we busied ourselves with dying—destruction’s formidable effects: the water bent back against itself, burbling up over the dam in green curtains of spray, rising through the lock like a blown gasket, or a kitchen imbued with smoke—all the bobbers & beer cans, those blue plastic bags, just gathering there—that small dog, washed around the trunk of a tree, stripped of all flesh, as if by scavenger birds—how beautifully the bones held the shape of his body, like a hull of a ship—the sun, bleached white.



Acknowledging death was in the room, she unwound the clocks & removed the jewelry from the nightstand—the small stack of coins & the blue plastic pillbox that never stayed closed. She ran water in the bathroom, working her hands along the porcelain basin of the sink, re-folded the towels & plucked, from the carpet, the small bits of leaves they’d ushered in on their shoes. Outside, a train knocked against the trestles towards Chicago, or Detroit, some city she couldn’t quite conceive of—all those buildings butting up against one another, & to what end? Here is a circle. And here, a square. Here is the rectangle where [insert famous name] saved an orphanage from destruction by fire. Always an orphanage, or runaway bride—a kidney-shaped pool being drained of water. Always the encapsulary fragment that says we are moved...are moving. And what of it? she might have asked, his clothes neatly stacked by the door to their bedroom, what of it?