Issue 14 – Summer 2008 – John Pursley

John Pursley III


[A Rock with No Structure—is Chaos, is Causality . . .]

               from “The Sea-Monkey Dreams”


A rock with no structure—is chaos, is causality proposed without  
The benefits of hindsight, or so the story goes . . . a rock without

Water precedes the same & is the same. And doubtless, an ocean
Concedes where there is land . . . flight patterns, & light, motions

Toward stability, structure—for I know that water dropping on a stone,
As Columbus said,will at length make a hole, but I know, too, bones

Grow brittle over time &, underwater, dissolve to almost nothing, 
That the water erodes the shore & is likewise the same, that wings

Are contingent on air, on gravity, holding them there, suspended
Above the giant fish, now flopping on the quarter-deck, upending

The rigid back of its harpooned body, like a contortionist trained
To amuse the men (or something more dire?), that whatever is gained

Garners the attention of all on deck—the recently re-rigged Niña
And repaired rudder of the Pinta, now out-sailing the Santa María,

Flagship, & Columbus’ own commandeered vessel—& the chaos 
Is welcoming, even 11 days off the Canary Islands, even as mossy

Weeds began to enclose the ships, making the men edgy, anxious 
About the voyage, the mesmerizing effects of the ocean; a lustful

Array of caudal fin, & dorsal, caught in a confusion of light & air,
A confusion of fear, turned amazement, a Dorado, a dolphin-fish,

Fighting to find water, an indubitable air . . . which is everywhere 
About the body, & the bare feet of these men, useless—a heresy

Of unorthodox breathing  . . . & blessings, inconsolable blessings.




 [Oviedo Believed Him . . . Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés . . .]

                        from “The Sea-Monkey Dreams”


Oviedo believed him . . . Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés,
Captain & royal historian to the Spanish monarchy, believed him

And, undoubtedly, put forth the most sympathetic interpretation 
On his countrymen’s proceedings; though he would not concede

To the discovery of a New World—the gold, & jewels, the spices
Of the Indies having long been known to exist, but then forgotten,

As all things are forgotten, or forgiven?, over time. Oviedo believed
It was the Spanish King Hesperus, whose islands, the Hesperides,

Had been lost; & were not the Canaries, as was generally thought,
But the Indies, themselves . . . God has restored this realm to the kings

Of Spain after many centuries . . . such is the way of gravity & granite
Entirely without dimension—&, equally impinged upon by water

Which, likewise, finds its form in conforming to surroundings—
Structure-less, a conformation that coincided with what he knew

(I believe) to be true, but refused to say; his interests, divested of 
Any feeling for the Moors (in Granada) or the Moorish king who

Kissed the rings of Ferdinand & Isabel; the expulsion of 200,000 
Jews; the forced conversions of Jews  . . . God has restored this realm

To the kings . . . & to this realm, too, has offered us structure where 
There was none; foundation, where there was none. And Oviedo,

Whose hands bled the brackish ink of scribe & page, of secretary 
To the Spanish Sovereign, boy-toy & confidence man to a nation

Wracked by war & its deliverance; who watched Spanish captains 
Charge the newly exiled Jews exorbitant amounts for safe passage

To Turkey, or worse, Portugal—& then, dumping them overboard 
In the middle of the ocean, their stomachs severed stem-to-stern

Like bloated, white bellies of fish; who held the hand of an infant 
Don Juan, the would-be King, as the ships set sail—Oviedo, who

Supervised the gold-smelting at San Domingo, historiographer of 
The Indies—Oviedo . . . Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés.



John Pursley III teaches poetry and literature at Delta State University, where he is the faculty advisor for the undergraduate literary journal, Confidante. His recent work appears in AGNI, Antioch Review, and PoetryA Conventional Weather, a new chapbook of his work, was published by New Michigan Press in 2007.