Excerpts > Joel B. Peckham, Jr.
Two Poems
Joel B. Peckham, Jr.

In the Beginning

                        It is not the word, but the word's anticipation,
caught in the lungs, caught in the windpipe, passing
through all stays, all stops and come on roughly as sheer
sound: an infant screams in the apartment across the hall;
two young men groan in the attic above; grackles crowd
the dying oak with fitful noise. We hear the fits and starts,
the seductive callings of the town as they lead us, slipping in
like shadows over the couch that strains on a neighbor's lawn,
over a sleeping child out past curfew, up the concrete steps
of the Congregational church where a transient rattles
the door-chain, and further, beyond all walls, into the open
places of the church itself, the minds-eye of the child
and her guiltless dreams of the minister's long white throat.
These are the makings of borders and of border crossings,
the fittings and unfastenings of dangerous ground where pressure
builds in the pipes, a door slams brightly as the street vanishes
in shades of blue, and we are left waiting, wanting like lovers
exploring each other with their hands, their mouths, knowing
something is about to happen, something magical.

Fog At Night

          There is the strange slow build and thickening
of air. We stand in clouds, and disappear, passing into other
worlds of white refracted bone-light, the moon itself turned
and wet on our cheeks and arms, glistening in the fine hairs, so we
are shining and invisible
          and yet there is danger. With no distinctions, the world
               drifts loose;
the mooring ropes, years in the water, dissolve; the boat comes
     free. Somewhere
on route 80 the headlights of an oncoming car seem to fill the
     world with light.
They do. The wheels screech and swerve

         In the fog all things connect, collide. And we have not yet
to live that way. All that moves is dangerous, all that is still is
—the car, the tree that stood for a hundred years.

         The lone man on the edge of the highway grips his head
in his hands and shining like a desert prophet, staggers toward

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