“Body Memory” by Joel Peckham

Joel Peckham


Once, a boy, out walking the access road along
Route 1, I watched a woman jump (or was she
pushed) from a moving truck, her body spun into
fields of tall grass and gravel. And when she rose,
holding her head in her hands, bleeding, standing,
she came up slow. Unfolding. Every inch
alight in pain. Mouth wide, silent. And the truck
pulling away, the door still open, swinging wild
as it made the corner onto the highway.

Still, I am shocked, not by how fragile
we are. But how easily transformed. Did she
will herself to stand, some signal shouting, “Up”
“Damn-it. Up!” or did she simply find herself
upright again, still stunned to have fallen, to be
this person in this moment on this particular
road this day with a strange boy staring at her,
from another world. I watched for a moment,
thought, my God and took off running. Dust

on my tongue—terrified and young and trying
to outdistance the image of one who rose
from the ground, from the surely dead, who swayed
and shook, then, sunstruck, dropped to earth again.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010

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