The body creaks, then cracks apart, thrumming like a drum beneath the ice—where every bone is a bell waiting to be struck, and every tendon tuned to the highest frequency, then plucked. Much of what I’ve lost is flexibility. Getting out of bed takes a plan, a plot. The nerve zinging up the leg, along the hamstring, to the spine. But also
much of the will to stretch, to reach for the branch that might hold, might not, thin as a girl’s wrist and full of sap, the memory of sun bent beneath the weight of leaves coated with ice. Once
I walked along the frozen rivers beneath the bridges with a handful of stones. Every child born to winter knows not to step anywhere the water might be moving, no matter how far down it runs, but you can skip a stone along the surface like your father tapping on a wall, searching for a stud. And listen,
death is always an assumption and a good one, but
where there is life, there is always
an alarm going off, something hissing in the bones, in the blood that says not yet, not now, get up, get up. Listen, the gulls are crying all down the shore. Listen
once, I saw the body of a stray dog, still for hours and coated with frost shift then start, then shake, taking off in a run, ice crackling from its coat in a galaxy of sparks.
-- Joel Peckham has published nine collections of poetry and nonfiction, most recently Bone Music (SFAU), Body Memory (New Rivers), and the spoken word LP, Still Running: Words and Music by Joel Peckham (EAT poems). Individual poems and essays have appeared recently in or are forthcoming Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, The Sugar House Review, Cave Wall, and The Beloit Poetry Journal. With Robert Vivian, Recently, he edited an anthology of ecstatic poetry for New Rivers Press, titled Wild Gods: The Ecstatic in American Poetry and Prose.