you are in the diode archives fall 2009



Figure for the Lessons of Water

I was young     taught the children how to swim      their mothers

Came       I made them air to breathe      to see the children made

To breathe     some water lopped about the eardrum      the chest

Cavity caved upon itself       some pressure of water      & the ear-

Drum taught them how to breathe     made them     how to swim


I was young     transfixed by water    a container of water painted

To look bluer than it was     figuring for the body’s mass     before

And after lessons     the knobby knees of children    the bleached

Whirl of children      against the concrete decks      where breathe

Meant breathe & the eardrums droned     to crawl      meant swim


I was young      timing their lungs capacity to hold        to breathe

The bodies of their mothers       in the bleachers       their throats

Parched with lack of air      parched with the swim      the how to

Of breathe & breathe      some capacity for breath       made them

To swim      figure for the lessons of water       how one breathes


Approaching Literature of the 21st Century

Where are the clouds? She pointed up & just under.

His truck, rusting in the yard beneath an apple tree.

Under the milkweeds, more grass, a bunch of blue.

Three, four more hours, the dog would come back.

Unbroken, the woman shrugged another marriage.

On the rear of the wagon: a cantaloupe, a blue tick.

How understanding, she said, but would not return.


[Do You Resent Being Here? Are You Afraid . . .]

                                    from “The Sea-Monkey Dreams”

Do you resent being here? Are you afraid your friends will know?
I assure you, what we share carries no burden outside these walls.

Think of us as friends—yes? What is it you think you’re here for?


The difficulty is in defining power—the difference between want
And need, like a joke with one wing & no window to fly through:

The one hand always grasping the other for things it cannot hold.


I have no memories. The nothing I can remember & the nothing
I won’t remember, pressed between two partitions at the farthest

End of the mind (like wounded grizzlies) fight it out (like Darwin)
Until the weaker ones die, & are consumed by fire—as all things

Are consumed by fire: I am lost in a love story that is not my life.


Your mother has spoken of these obsessions. Do youcut yourself?
I asked you a question. I expect an answer. I asked a question & I

Expect an answer. Is it really as bad as all this? I asked a question.


My first dog, Shad, was the result of a cow, a calf, I couldn’t keep
Within the limits of the city—& the goats my parents didn’t want,

Even if every kid in the county had one. Please—don’t start about
The bridge—nobody’s jumping—& we look stupid standing here.


[The Air is Lighter Here, Though You Aren’t Thinking of Bernoulli—]

                              from “The Sea-Monkey Dreams”

The air is lighter here, though you aren’t thinking of Bernoulli—
Of potential, or kinetic. Of Torricelli’s Law being put to practice.

You aren’t thinking Principia Mathematica or deriding numerology
For obfuscating intelligent design . . . only that there is assurance

In formalities, in the practical application of . . . only that there is.  


John Pursley III is the author of several chapbooks, most recently Supposing, for Instance, Here in the Space-Time Continuum (Apprentice House Press 2009). If You Have Ghosts, his first full-length collection, was the Editor’s Prize Selection for the 2009 Zone 3 Poetry Prize and will be released in early 2010. He teaches writing and literature at Clemson University.