Relay Octets

By John Peck b. 1941 John Peck

If sound, then why not the full reach of mind,
and if that cantilever then why not the whole
keyboard with its totality of partials?
But then one meets the dragon, pipes up a bright
disciple, whose two dramas, lieber Meister,
are suicide and the founding of the state.
My name is a household word, writes the hid teacher
to his ambitious aspirant, in my own household.


Three, three, and two, the comeliest proportions
in twice four, carols a bobolink at midtree,
the golden sections of sight flap nostalgic for sound.
But of touch there is no ratio, there are only   
gradient, ascent, compression, easing,
and space evacuated, not yearning; filled.
Therefore, Belovèd, middle is neither midmost
nor at the squeezed core, but where breath resumes.


A man who had killed in order to save life,
and had left his clan to guide the foreigner,
never went home. Or, home was what he came to.
The girl who knew that something before and after,
of which no one spoke, was always brimming now,
came to his corner, knitted, did not speak.
What had striven in him and was seeding in her
gazed out over the harbor, through white sails crossing.

“Relay Octets” 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 Arts & Sciences, Music, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse


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 Arts & Sciences, Music, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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