If You Have Ghosts

John Pursley III

The dark is enough; the smallness of morning
Before the first light slides, carefully
Along the banister, where
My whole life, over polished wood & the imperfections
Of wood, I have run my hands,
Pressed lightly on the same steps, the same door
Where I know my parents are sleeping…

We are never alone—though, to understand it
For the first time must come as a surprise for a child,
The way a window, opening
Or suddenly snapped shut, can suggest
Change in the weather, an approaching storm
Or the stillness following—the quiet
Murmur of earth, lights that never go out.

The difference is in being small & understanding
One’s smallness. Every angel is terrifying—
Let them sleep where they may. Turn & go back
Across the hall to your room—lie down,
Beside your own body & comfort
In its breating. There are still a few good hours
Between morning & much work to do.


In Praise of If You Have Ghosts

“John Pursley’s striking debut is a collection of meticulously orchestrated lyric mediations, very confident in its music, and recalling Larry Levis and Charles Wright in the vividly rendered ways in which leitmotifs are obsessively shuffled in order to bring the poems to large and abiding reckonings. This is an ambitious book of abundant promise…”

​—David Wojahn

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