John Pursch


A world without objects, sentences with no nouns, piecemeal disintegration, unity without an entity, pointing everywhere, at what? A finger, a swollen shoe in rain, amorphous ambit of countless ants appearing on a dusty road, heading for the sound of cannon. Bullets whiz by a few feet overhead; underfoot the crunch of stricken trees and brush. The cries of fallen men fill the woods: needles in a hay bale, corpses strewn and tangled, eyes aloft in nascent wonder, tuned to the apocalypse.

Apoplectic generals trail on horseback, targets of silent sharpshooters. I contemplate falling out behind a tree forever, before canister can do what cowardice cannot, but somehow plunge forward into whizzing fire, whirring bayonets, wild-eyed yelling infantry, return to bloody infancy; umbilical replete with smoking rifle, shoddy boots, missing bedroll, soggy cap, dog-eared bible. Deafening volleys, earthen barricades abutting our advance, a fallen horse shining in the midday heat. Why is my jacket soaked and tattered? The sky is beautiful, serene, drawing me home.

We are in the Wilderness. Night fell hours ago. Spots of fire dot the sky in afterimage smoke above a rolling moan. Thousands slowly bleeding in the twisted gnarl. Some fool sends a cannonball into the dark. Who can say – maybe that’s the sanest act tonight will see; no one’s getting any sleep, aside from those near death. But wait! Aren’t we all in line, impending visitation coursing through us, probability around a cornered regiment? If time exists, if we exist, eventuality is certain, mercy instantaneous.

A bugle pops my eyelids open; must’ve joined the dead in peace, dawn reclaiming all of us to coffee, march and load and fire, reload and redeploy, stifle shudder run ahead in hand-to-hand oblivion of shoveled earth. Spotsylvania Court House, I have seen your justice. It is bloody and complete.

I return from two weeks off, totally shell-shocked, another vacation in the books. I am also considerably poorer, indebted to the time-travel agency for the foreseeable future. How ironic, borrowing from the future to visit the past, to fight a battle whose outcome cannot be altered, to relive and revel in historic bloodshed. By now, countless millions have forked over their life savings to die on any side of a thousand glorious conflicts, incurably addicted to Shiloh, Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Waterloo, Saratoga, Valley Forge, Hastings, Syracuse, Carthage, Alesia…

My officemate is saving up for two weeks in the First Crusade. If he likes it, he plans to take the whole family to the Children’s Crusade over the holidays. I am envious and can only hope my wife doesn’t find out. But I must focus on today, directing drones to retake a seaport in the Middle East; restore the flow of oil by week’s end. Tonight, I’ll take an hour or two in ancient Rome, brush up on my Latin; hope I have enough credits to once again be buried in ash at Pompeii. Or, barring that, Herculaneum. Nothing quite like mingling with pottery shards, submerged in toppled aqueduct, abandoned cistern, tufa rock, smell of sulfur.


The truth wears
flannel pajamas
and sleeps
in a whirlpool.

Fact and fiction alternate
in current affairs.

There is a certain
in eventuality.


Assertions stimulate
secondary imputations,
growing stubble.

I Do Not Know

I do not know
why dogs chase cats,
why red is black,
why we run out
of things to say
at dinner parties.


Today the high is 103.
Fine pool weather!

Even so,
it has taken
all my willpower
to get outside
and into the water
before sunset.

Savoring Wittgenstein’s Tractatus
in the deep end, I am struck by:
“5.63 I am my world (in microcosm).”

This brings to mind
the process by which
we parse the world
into objects.

Are all objects created
by a fictional mind?

Does the world collapse
without conceptual overlay?
Or spring to life?

Am I indistinguishable
from the world?

A drowned frog floats by,
trapped by circumstance.

I’ll fish him out and
cast him to the desert.

It is done.

His eyes were still open,
peering at me like granite.

He hit the floor with a solid thud.


Insignias inundate
incurably innovative

A gate, a gully,
an eagle’s eye.

Now disappearing vanity,
blank and vanquished innocence,
is held accountable.


Eternal flame
sieves the air
for an oasis.


Skies quiesce,
piano black in
foldaway lagoon.


Dolomitic doorbell rings
a ribald cornucopia
of earwig oratorio
and animal imbroglio,
dripping tux in perfect sync,
a fulminating opal.


Out here in the wilderness of language, far removed from sacred silence, a thunderstorm of ancient diatribe, of senseless slogans, false impressions, falsetto mumbo jumbo, semicolons lost upstream…

I have come to greet you, lost and lonely traveler, wanderer, solemn and solitary wayfarer; out of ammo, short of fuel, food, firewood, light, camera, toadstools, bicameral sidecars, ostentatious sideburns, spurious sidearms, dawdling and wayward cold fronts, cold creams, hammerhead sharks, coral beefcake, windsurfing supermodels, dietetic restrictions, olfactory regulations, intergalactic numismatics, rheumatoid psoriasis.

Yes, I’ve come for your soul, to salvage what we can, what paltry portion might feasibly remain to be drained of swamp gas, turpentine, torpedo tubes, tornado funnels, claustrophobia, hubris, antebellum cheers and anthems, garish flags aflutter, cannonades of stupid rage, bloodbath oratory, naked dive to frothy sea. I will haul and keelhaul, reeling in your kielbasa, your lamplighter flesh, pasty eyeballs fixed on double-talking jabberwocky, streetwalking rhododendrons, dendritic overhaul in promontory progress.

Pull, boys, pull! Give it your backs! Reel in the great whale, the blubbery tartan overshirt of hairy chest, flabby backstrap, wanton warlike whipsaw whorl, wizened holocaust of hollow stance, of simian relic, of genetic germination gone afoul. Strengthen your resolve, stand fast in the suppurating mammalian carnage of cadaverous calumniated carcass, of corked bats, spitball soup, tarred and feathered testimonials to tartuffery, timorous timekeepers skulking up and about at all ungodly hours, slippery eels, stiletto heels in flooded alleys far behind enemy lines, beneath the subway’s stygian drain.

Here with the freshly unearthed toad, the river flows unbridled, malfeasance thick and unimpeded, to marbled steak, choicest lambchop, oysters on the halfway house, warring peacetime lullabies sung softly over monetary moonscape.

John Pursch lives in Tucson, Arizona. Twice nominated for Best of the Net, his work has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his poetry, Intunesia, is available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/whiteskybooks. His pi-related lit-rap video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l33aUs7obVc. He’s @johnpursch on Twitter and john.pursch on Facebook.
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