Ever focus so hard on a star that it disappears? The human eye’s anatomical constraints allow for only oblique attention to life’s wonders. The heart likewise skews in relation to life’s calamities. In her collection, Show Her A Flower, A Bird, A Shadow, Peg Alford Pursell shows us how very poor light renders the starkest relief. Now look at that star through a hole in your sock.
She catalogues universal forces like a kind of quantum mechanics where time, gravity, love, and regret behave more than both a particle and a wave, exposing “This trivial fact of human nature. Composition and decomposition. Of every petal, feather, and light particle.” And just as Pursell adeptly switches between first and third person in her compressed poetic prose, time can be arrested and even momentarily reversed in its continuum – want to interrogate the past? Write a series of letters to it.
In the opening story, Day of the Dead, Pursell writes, “I want a belly of bravery. I want to know the kindness sent out of the cage of the heart. An eye that never becomes insensate to the invisible spectrum, an ear that never dulls to the song of the pulse.” Her characters strive, flail, seek, observe, fail, and yearn.
The mechanics are constant and unforgiving, and sometimes inevitability is achieved with a future tense applied in a past situation, sometimes with a child careening into a man lofting a precipitous tray of steaming coffee mugs, sometimes with the absolute pronouncement of a heroic gardener answering a defeated homeowner’s call: No one goes it alone anymore, ever.
Pursell’s rich images and musicality still leave plenty of space to imprint one’s experience while savoring the characters’ seductive gravitational slide through time, space, hurt, and heart. You’ll never look at the holes in your socks the same way.
Show Her A Flower, A Bird, A Shadow is available now.
Sara Comito’s poetry has been published in places like Thrush Poetry Journal, Mojave River Review, MockingHeart Review, A-Minor Magazine, Blue Fifth Review, and Bending Genres Journal. She lives in Southwest Florida, whose beauty and extremes inform much of her work. As a counterbalance, she enjoys spending time in the American West. Her first published fiction piece is due out shortly from Defenestration Magazine. Visit Sara at twitter.com/Comito_writes and saracomito.com.