Issue 20 – Spring 2011 – John Peck

John Peck


from New York Sonnets

Dusk still cascaded down the stone scarp, over
warmly lit plate glass where two couples dined.
The vast, dispersed agitation of the thing
our shared life is for a breath parted and held
itself away, those pairs encased silently
glad and engrossed, intake’s miniature—
Upper East Seventies, the late push homeward—
when a tall man carrying two satchels, neither
manager nor professor, stopped and bent
wearily from the waist, setting them down,
then found himself continuing to topple,
both fists striking. And tried to stand, but could not.
A cargo truck halted between us, shaking,
rumbling, then jerking into gear. And he was gone.

Green, Yellow, Red

A London banker to one of ours: An intellectual 
breakthrough! The poor are honest. Who would have guessed? 
Old Tortoise piping from his shelter even as
Baudelaire’s dandy strolls with him on a leash.
Crossing Third, late sun inflaming the cliff
for ten blocks, dip and rise humping amber tail lights—
I stop half way, the rest of the pack pushing on
strung like the gawking throng along Thames bank
just below Turner’s lookout toward Parliament
where it torched up in yellow, orange, and soot, 
the marble bridge where it stoops to the other side
fire-lit and molten. And I have this moment
before these massed headlights lunge out in their scrimmage—
have it with those who linger in the breach.


A Bridge Beneath

Midtown slabs of improbability
vaulting on lucre, one-way panels arguing 
that their stuff leaps over mere materials
into some other substance and scale—their loft
through mauve dusk and the gleams sunk in their grids
held my rube neck bent back. But second sight
had that steel glass turn watery. Divination
sank a blue yawn of fathoms over a bridge
suspended in murk, folklore arch for a troll’s den 
glooming beneath with Curtis Lemay’s bulbed head.
We actually had those people. At the railing
a little crowd gazed down, then Dorothy Day
turned from one of her homeless, approaching me:
Yes–did you want to speak with one of us?



John Peck is a freelance writer, editor, and practicing Jungian analyst. He is the author of eight previous books of poems, most recently of Red Strawberry Leaf: Selected Poems, 1994-2001 (2005), published in the Phoenix Poets series by the University of Chicago Press, and the cotranslator of C.G. Jung’s The Red Book (2009).