Anasazi, Ancient Enemies

By John Peck b. 1941 John Peck
I rubbed wax crayon against blowing paper.
From the rock face footed a dancer white through red.
    My family gave me over
    to it, gone for the river.

Were I a peasant harvesting grapes near Beaune
in the last century, even, I might have dreamed
    a saint lifting off for Arles,
    Les Saintes Maries de la Mer,

and knowing about cannon in that long peace,
might have been troubled therefore that my flier
    hauled a magnum of the best
    and bloodied the west sky with it

and vanished. My fisting that loose sheet in place
was secretarial, not visionary!
    Already in that decade
    small tribes entered the void

like windows on a skyscraper when the bent
janitor makes his way. But those flick back on
    each night, costly difference.
    It is not only portents

in dream or flapping images of the gone
or the soon-to-be-going or the tremblingly poised
    that catch like undertow
    the foot in tide-rip toeing

down the singing or remembered beach.
We study populations in the forests,
    we hold the paper flat,
    mark, note, warn—the dictated

prophecies do their work, we do some work—
cut horn from rhinos so they won’t be poached.
    But, to go on from there,
    one needs to stand in the doorway

some evening and feel the air as if it were fire
pulling illusionlessly, letting the draw
    of one fact heat its chain
    of links, such as, Japan

clear-cutting forests in Siberia
where tigers not already harvested
    lope their dwindling range,
    two hundred as the hinge

for their growled arc of existence, bones of the others
ground to powders for old men’s potencies.
    One needs to feel the tug
    of the draft on skin, the drag

of process utterly anciently itself.
Faster, now, the pull is from birth through dwelling through
    dissolution, along lines
    streaming through us, ageless winds.

“Anasazi, Ancient Enemies” by John Peck from M and Other Poems. © 1996 by John Peck. Published by TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

Source: M and other poems (TriQuarterly Books, 1996)

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Poet John Peck b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships, History & Politics, Social Commentaries


Born in Pittsburgh, John Peck studied with Yvor Winters at Stanford and earned his PhD at Vanderbilt University, where he studied with poet-scholar Donald Davie, who was his advisor for his dissertation on Pound. Peck’s allusive, musically nuanced poetry shows clear traces of Pound, though Peck’s syntax is far more rounded and bridgelike than Pound’s cantilevered structure, and Peck’s ideas and metaphors tend to engage rather . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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