< >

john ebersole




My friend Justin from NYC
             we’re talking the other day
                       as we drive into Pittsburgh
& he says he was never one of those
              dudes that just sat around in a room with other dudes
                       getting high & doing nothing
& I tell him I was precisely one of those dudes
               & I surprise myself because I say it
                        for the first time without hating myself
but I know what he means
              it was kind of boring: surf videos & coughing out windows
                        there was a kind of suffering to it all
that drew us close. State-changes do that maybe:
              becoming someone else
                         with someone else
                         builds camaraderie
or something. Sometimes I can’t remember a single conversation we had
              but I guess it was never about talking
                         it was about sharing space & not feeling
much. Is that what masculinity is, a room
              full of smoke? None of us knew
each other but we knew each other
              more than anyone.
              Justin says he might move to Philly.
                          We’ll see he says.




Waves do this: crash
& abduct

the sand
beneath the arches

of your words.
I don’t

remember what
I said

but Taylor’s friend
Chi said back to me:

too much book learnin.
We got high

in the car.  
They surfed

as I wandered around
& found a gnarled branch

in the dunes & found
a jellyfish near the jetty & I sank

the branch
through the jellyfish

& words rose
inside him.





I was like thirteen playing
Trivial Pursuit with Missi
when I got a question asking

what the second largest industry
in Florida was next to tourism
& I thought for sure the answer

was citrus farming but it wasn’t
citrus farming it was drug-trafficking.
Surrounded on three sides by water

the entry points to Florida’s black markets
are copious, & in addition to the state’s
saturated contours, inland is nearly as soaked:

the Sunshine State is home to over 30,000
lakes & ponds & wetland & for most
of the geological history in the US

Florida was underwater until sea-levels
dropped at the end of the Oligocene Epoch
(nearly 400 million years ago) & yet

it was only 10,000 years ago when sea-
levels reached their current levels & Florida
took the shape we know today & if what

they say is true about water – that it’s the medium
from which life itself might rise –
then I get why Wallace Stevens

once described the fauna of Florida as angering
for life
: constant cry in the lavish palm,
in the ghosthair Spanish moss,

in the great egret rookery, in the giant
banyan tree, the cypress knees inside
the sun aflame & I remember this

feeling carving Jay’s name so vigorously
into the exedra’s white stone at Kraft Azalea
Gardens that I thought Lake Maitland itself

(formerly Lake Fumecheliga – meaning where
the muskmelons grow
– until the end
of the Second Seminole War

also referred to as The Florida War,
or as historians have come to call it
in order to encompass the total number

of conflicts between the US & the Seminoles
the Seminole Wars, 1835-1842) might begin
to boil       boil       boil  as I pestled out the J,

the A, & the Y with a car key
then blew the stonedust away.
The last time at Kraft Azalea Gardens,

maybe two years ago, I searched
the monument & searched not only
for the rune of Jay’s name, but for proof

of my labor that day, to ratify
that the abstraction of me had continuity
& that in the ambience of repetition I

had been an I & she had been a her
yet not anywhere, nowhere,
could I see her name.   





John Ebersole's most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in inter|rupture, Southern Humanities Review, BOAAT, The Brooklyn Rail, The Battersea Review, Coldfront, Queen Mob's Teahouse and elsewhere. He is poetry editor of The Philadelphia Review of Books and assistant professor of English at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.