Mark Tursi >



I think the amazing, unsettling thing about life is that in most places in the world there exist types of human interaction that strike one as unreal or as appalling or as incomprehensible. There is a sort of murmur to the world that consists of the speech of the mad, the tortured, the irrational, the dead and dying, the subversive, the savage.

—Brian Evenson


I am caught mid-flight. I steal books from Barnes and Noble, then switch the first chapter with the last, and return them to the shelves. Sometimes, I rip out entire middle sections and consider re writing them. I'm afraid of the way language interprets itself. There is a flower I don't know the name of. I pick it everyday. I pull the petals one by one: she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not. It works.

Yesterday, I pulled into a gas station that still had those old rusty red pumps that work so hard I always think there is some old guy in the back of the station pedaling a bicycle to get the gas to come up from the tank below. While John pumped (or prompted the old bicyclist), I played peek-a-boo with one of the kids in the car next to us. She must have been three or four with outrageous red curly hair, but not like the red of the pumps, more like the kind you see on circus clowns. I imagined her older and liked it. The mom came out—blonde, blue and green eye shadow. She was wearing one of those seventies style solid white sun dresses that looks like just another thin layer of skin (slinky you might say, only hippie too). She gave me a look that was hard, and angry enough to burn holes in my stomach if I hadn't turned away. They sped off. We had Johnny Cash playing in the stereo. I always remember "Ring of Fire," or "Get Rhythm," but that's it. The songs that matter, songs I can relate to. I would compare us to the tumbleweed tumbling past, but that wouldn't be truthful. We had place. We had rhythm.

Impressions. I continuously work hard to make them, I pull all the punches, only "h" instead of "p" (for both words). It works. I read a lot. We all do. Read. Interpret. I want to be like John Cheever, only with an "L" instead of an "h" and no double "e." Or, an "a" and a "t" instead of an "e" and a "v." More interesting that way. I'll steal the story about the swimmer, change the "he" to a "her"—make her athletic. Perfectly shaped. One "r" makes all the difference. She swims from place to place, splashing, making waves in everyone else's pool. It always calms though. The waves never stay. Just the water. She never stays either, like the flower, like the girl. Swimming is like flying. Both end in "-ing." I determine the difference by rearranging the letters and putting them up against each other. Like how the stars reflected in water are different than the stars, but still stars.

John, my friend, not Cheever or Cash, has one of those toothless bourbon colored smiles. Impressions. His grin lets me know we are "brothers," that we wear all the moments in the same way. More than any book or poem can do. I see all the words and fast-talk take their toll as much as any cheap whiskey, draining all of the us that makes us. I don't know which is worse: the liquor or this. The motif is the same—don't fall in love—it's easy. But then I think about changing the story, my story, that I've been brainwashed, not drunk or imagining, but captured by aliens who tie me up and force me to drown in reel after reel of Las Vegas weddings then flip to two years later and end with a caption: "this could be you."

I collect post cards. I especially like the "wish you were here" kind from truck stops in Myrtle Beach and Daytona with women in bikinis and tan lines showing with captions like: "local color" or "beach buns." Better yet, though, are the ones from the heartland that have pictures of all the crops, state industry, and even "things-to-do." Like the Great Escape Amusement Park. Missouri, the "Show-Me" state is chock-full of good sights: The National Bowling Hall of Fame, or The Hair Museum. Ohio is the Buckeye state where folks have an eye for the inviting. After the Kent State Memorial you could stop-in and visit The Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky. New Mexico is the "Land of Enchantment." I could see why: The National Atomic Museum and The Potato Museum - all in one visit. Wyoming is "Like No Place on Earth." I read last week some cowboys pistol-whipped another guy for "lookin' at 'em kinda funny." Made a scarecrow out of him. Like no place on earth.

I was arrested once because I dismantled the smoke detector in the airplane bathroom. It's all about rules and regulations these days. One person's version of "friendly skies" may be different from another's. I try explaining the need but the stewardess will hear none of it. I quiet easily. It's all about comparing—one thing with another, looking for the differences. Looking down from this height is deceiving. Everything looks neat and orderly, well-defined. The land lies framed by lines and borders, streets, farms, cities—impressions. Somehow the browns don't merge with the greens, or the land with the water. White clouds, blue sky. You can distinguish where one thing ends and another begins. My eyes take flight, gather images, colors. I fly about, eyeing the borders. I hedge, look for the distinctions. Flutter into blank sky.