Joel Peckham



A Chevy up on blocks is only an eyesore
to the faithless.


—Keeper of exhaled breath, watcher
of what was, arc of stutter, shudder
and cough, chamber of wants, of
spent muscle in the thighs
and backs and jaws—When all

that’s left is shell and rust, what waits

to be reborn? This old
muscular husk churns—
rusted country roads and half-
abandoned parking lots.
I could spend a life pointing
at miracles of light that pass
though spiders-silk of shattered
windshields. Nothing aches so like
the broken spine of a drive-
shaft, nothing yearns like this engine
turning over in the pre-dawn light.


Out of the yearning of cool moss, the long note
comes, quivers, spreads, brooding its way
with April mist along the stone shore, having reached
so far and sung beyond the lung’s capacity, beyond
what blistered vocal chords can bear: bird-boned, light
and dangerous with land and air and breath that lifts
sound like a shell in wind. Fish glisten in their nets,
pulled from deep shadow. Huge arms heavy
with bait and blood, fishermen stumble into dawn,
along the rocking docks where canneries whistle
and bang with a wind that stings of salt and cold
and all that looms in the distance, hovering

like tall tales and ghost ships. The coast
a memory of all that is crushed and sifted,
taken away and settled again in accordance with no
scripture but constant movement, force, and power:
the way life comes wave after wave, wearing us down,
breaking us apart again in new, unrecognizable shapes
—a dune, a cliff, a sand-bar. Now, the first engines
stutter and purr their way into this morning song. What waits
to dance like David, naked, singing praise and anger to take us
as we are or sweep each voice away like sand eroding
and building again miles from the harbor?


Joel Peckham is the author of three poetry collections, Movers and Shakers, The Heat of What Comes, and Nightwalking. Recently Academy Chicago Publishers released his memoir, Resisting Elegy. Poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review and others. He lives with his family in Huntington WV.