Such is the way of windows, of gravity and rock– conventional weather.
–John Pursley III, from A CONVENTIONAL WEATHER
Pursley writes flawlessly, with profound insight and emotional depth, of the conventional lives of conventional people in environments so compellingly drawn as to be both inseparable from, and nearly separate, characters themselves. The Ground Is Swollen & Black: the Air Not Moving at All is a portrait of Pursley‘s father fully wrought with love and pain; almost unbearable to read. The opening lines introduce his father:
Tonight, my father walks the narrow row of railroad ties, now delicate
As the dirt itself & crumbling, the way a mushroom will, when
It begins to dry & draws its moisture to the surface, like a protective skin
and our image of him is inseparable from the land the man is walking: railroad ties, dirt, dryness. This melding of person and place is striking as well in Study for an American West, in which a mother is driving her daughter through the desert at night:
For loneliness, a coyote squares her shoulders to the moon-
Light in a gesture too pronounced for such incitement, as if
Somewhere in the foreground, a mother & child had pulled
To the roadside to look at a map; &, for the first time, taken by
The sheer variation of the desert, recognize the commonality
That must subsist in all things; the road goes on forever…
A Conventional Weather takes us places, and we aren’t likely to be the same after.