Issue 25 – 2014 – John Peck

John Peck


Span One: Cedars of Liban, cantos 31-33, 41-43, 65, 67 


The right actor in a wrong mise en scène, 
like Schopenhauer’s analysis of walking,
is breaking his fall all the time.
But here, daring to slow—
urgency stays marrow-central with that,
bearing down on those
who remain timely only in their bristling
incapacity to move faster
into the minute, so gristly
is their occupancy of it, the folk
without clocks. Vigilers of the upwelling.
who span not only Cuzco’s
seamed ramparts and slumping stone walls
through woodlots uproad, but also
the cedar blip near Beirut
with Europe and Africa at night from the cold lob
of six miles:
spokes from London, Berlin, Cairo, and Rome’s
fascinations, not the undead
but all who in this wink
burn, or turn to each other,
or perceive, or think: freshest
though old as elves,
foretime of the eye before it judges—


then swing, the eastern corridor
past inky Atlantic;
out from Chicago, spidery; Vegas, luminous
surf creaming the West Coast—
across the full range of the familiar,
the dangerous,
toylike, and strange.
Not feeling it before, this shudder
in ontic headwinds, but waking to joins
brighter between the blocks yet their ice
still black, not yet blue powder–
my house mortared sparklingly, all my scenes
thrust far off while plenum spills through.
Bubbles crowding toward break-shine, squirming to get there,
jostle until free agents clear the pack
streaking, heralds from below.
And through murk, that has been the prodigious
disclosure: falling as being pulled,
dragged as breaking surface and gulping flame.
That is the forest: the eld pushing green
yet tough as a bitch taking hounds. One through all contraries:
abruptly unwadding newsprint around a heart
under a streetlamp, that close though separate,
always it has no contemporaries.


Rolling shadows inshore,
silvery above them, sandy beneath, the real
unrolls the stream beds it also swims.
In a brook past the window, after the doctor
stepped out, a blue origami thing abruptly
stood waiting—as double Orpheus had for his spiritus rector
duplex Hermes while wading the drag road
up from basement cognition—his loss turning more
on the human gap in my courage, lamentable
though real, than on some weakly soldered
nerve in that bird. The doctor returning stuttered
as I motioned silence—What’s th – at!—and I said, That
is a blue heron.
As Oscar Milosz, 1916,
was visited by a sun from below, condenser
of spaces into its hyper-point, before their release
into blood—movement prior to anything
that moves, loving prior to what loves—
blood hull of number, of Yes and No, rocking already
in its own sea. Is it idleness
to mull his cadences while so much else
occupies the scene—rightly the loud skÄ“nÄ“—
bright shadows, squirrels jerking upright to nibble
while I must, in our forest, dine on myself.


Subtle and more subtle grow the temptations.
I heard this evening evening’s aubade, the crush
of radiance in on itself,
crumpling worlds with the pyriea Archimedes
threw at the Fifth Fleet, marsh sea pinks at dawn.
and heard gongs tapering to hush among slaughters
pre-tallied by the Hoseas. Real meeting
crowds now into these bi-valencies—medicine
vaporizing, bleeps flurrying the dead zone–
to notch the choice tighter: adoration
or Selbstmord. Short of that, torpor after wrath,
then rage after torpor, both humiliating—
mucked manhood near,
too near, all the controls. The plighting
between woman and this has not yet chalked
its limit. Teens in the caves painting,
their genius of outering—those firsters
did early Balanchine slanting
past my grasp, no artifact but freed movement
balancing the berserking act between
heart and wall. Bog sunset, berry-float sheen,
dollop of early moon in her, I break
as the blurred bear wading in to trawl.


I heard this morning, waking into the level
red radiance decanting me, the gravel
rolled by basement rivers, basses and baritones
overlapping, steady as a sans culotte
knitting during windless climbs of the thing
into its slit, herms from harms: male force
yarning out the female demand: Wait!
ductile stretch winnowing the contract: No terms!
neither the underwater monks of dispersed Tibet
nor the choirs of Novgorod, but the singlet
on a runner rippling for the tape at full push
as his core plays his nerve like a string bass,
plucking while sleeving the input ratio
from thrusted mass while flowing with seed’s torque–
not my hang-back when I first went out on the wire
toward a soft hand, not quite hearing,
only later past fatigue, its breathing:
I thought you would never come! Thus that rag
across my cock swathing piston thighs
opening to blood
at ram speed while every bone bowed:
waking past the Lost Colony, bearing down
without mitigation on the axle’s held roar
and therefore not haunting the phantom groves—


—not standing with the two London schoolteachers
who found themselves with Marie Antoinette
and her court dressed as villagers close by
the faux drip-drip watermill, and saw children
trundling hoops in the same sunlight
that held them all there before the First War,
Verdun and Wipers. Neither haunting
the ghost trunks at origin nor fingering their shag armor,
not craning my neck back
to scan diameter arrays of lit green
in fans interpenetrating. Nor compounding
their gone sap with mystic blood, Milosz’s
revelation, primal unity bulbing
from the ruby on the pectoral. Nor blood coaxed fuller,
Faust-mitted engineers
crafting it to throng more redly, thickly,
erythropoietin ginning the mix, poiein
curdling the hearts in racers who keel over
their handlebars: Goethe missed that wrinkle,
poiesis of the groves turned into speed sludge
for overtaking origin to replant it,
tail in mouth, yet that circle birthing the nothing
of the unrooted, a rhizome
a-swish in the grab elegy of conquest.


Greece says that it needs 40 fighter jets.
Yet suddenly no one needs Greece. Syntagma Square
fills with paradigmatic trash and revolt.
The grammar of consent is screwed, the syntagms
of bond as pledge are battened by maniples
onto the peoples in rotation, screws in suits
to the beat from the oar master as forty nations
contest their debt packages but pull ny a papai!
edge-on into wave-heave. And recitation
de jure halts nothing in crimine. Fiat luxe.
Now for readiness of heart toward the biblos
of seed, that long book of ships tossed helter-skelter
each page and letter meant
to be strewn by the hammering calends, snow, sun,
glacier, esker, pond melt, parch crack, fires.
But flowers, tough vulvas of process, accelerated
the whole pace: their soft drumming, and right through
goes the germ’s missile, caliber X the same
in the Valley of the Kings and freeze-dried in the Arctic.
My rain tub blue and huge
tilts to its low lip, through its ice disk the axe
smashes ringing, for when the core yanks forth its lining
and the bolt sizzles down, the whole air stretches a string
to the bow’s whap, Selah.


Free of everything that has clung to me
because I grasped at it, submitted to the span
of the dominum sine pondere, indeed
not ponderable, nor shall the wind take me.
In the sagged valley of this cup breed microbes of remedy.
Below the air’s rubbing and spin, either side
of shiftings among strata, over magma.
Potencies teem without cease, their frames recompose,
their joins lock the seams of keen bevels.
The years of shearing from them approach the runway
though the tower says Not cleared, not yet.
A threshold underfoot like any other,
rounded stone surfacing from earth,
its grains that of a muffin’s poppy seeds,
its heave postulating submerged progressions
and its cracks filled grandfatherly, easy with wreckage,
nearby tussocks its Himalyas, weeds its bending palms,
a compact with all that is solid,
a treaty with convulsion, evolution,
at noon beneath the demon’s dragged heel
and at sunset a bulge of burgundy,
its nap abraded then smooth with motion, wanting nothing,
vacant and undeceived,
the other face of stronghold.



John Peck‘s ten books of poems include Collected Shorter Poems (Northwestern U. P., 2003), Red Strawberry Leaf (U. of Chicago, 2005), Contradance (U. of Chicago, 2011), and I Came, I Saw: Eight Poems (Shearsman, 2012). He is a co-translator of Jung’s The Red Book (Norton, 2009), the editor of Jung’s seminar on Dream Interpretation Ancient and Modern (Princeton U. P., in press), an analyst practicing in Brunswick, Maine, and a translator-editor for the Philemon Foundation.