Little Fugue

By John Peck b. 1941 John Peck
An apple paring
curled from the knife wetly
    down my thumb—
and what I had failed
to do rightly touching that life
    next to mine, wearing
late afternoon’s numb
luminosity, impaled me.

    A hunter knee-deep
in salt marsh, whom Anton Chekov
might have set there and then left,
    back to doctoring,
or choked off as too dark, wanton,
    met the steep
flailing of teal, trailed their shrill lift,
but stood only, hearing them.

    Pouring the last tea
of an evening, dark amber
alive, breathing in quintessence
    of India,
I felt limber bark
sheathing the shrub of my life’s tree
with root good, but dense,
dark, local, raw there,

    and so in dark woke,
the seeing doctor, two simple
profiles of linked characters
    in his air,

cruel, good, a pair ample, true
across that split yoke,
true to its splayed force—
simple so rare, though.

“Little Fugue” 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 Activities, Eating & Drinking


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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SUBJECT Activities, Eating & Drinking

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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