Joel Peckham Jr. 
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Joel Peckham Jr. published seven books 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 SchoonerThe Southern ReviewThe Sugar House ReviewCave Wall, and The Beloit Poetry Journal. With Robert Vivian, he recently edited an anthology of ecstatic poetry for New Rivers Press, titled Wild Gods: The Ecstatic in American Poetry and Prose.

Any Moonwalker Can Tell You (or, Earth to Joel)

1. ​

how it feels               when silence means you might be a              drift. 
On your own                    out there in space. And I think how much 
fear can be conveyed in the cutting               of a cord. How fragile
we can be in the absence            of a corresponding voice or even
a dial-tone, silence an open mouth a       swallowing       that lets
you know that something’s coming and what’s coming can’t be
good.                 Hello?                   Hello? I have learned there are 
questions I don’t want the answers to. Joel, I know you are 
confused. That’s the drugs. You’re at Kings hospital.    There was 
an accident, Joel.   Darius is going to be ok. But Susie and Cyrus. 
They didn’t make it, Joel.      And so                  I am                 always 
speaking across the void and having to fill the silence on my 
own to find the right words and have them at the ready as if a 
word               could speak the capsule through the atmosphere 
bring            a body back through the windshield         piece the 
glass together like a memory that leaves your hands        stinging
with blood.


My mother calls in the middle           of the night, We had an
accident, Jo, saying            you have to talk          to your father        
who is in the hospital in Brockton after falling down the stairs            
again but thinks he is somewhere           else and wants to go            
home, swears there’s nothing wrong                      with him or his 
brain. I’m only 45 he says, too young                     to be living like
this. And suddenly, in this moment, I am

older than my father I am           my father’s father and somehow                    
still his son only I am                 14 and he’s saying                  Joel,         
are you still with me as I stare straight though or past him or
out              the window slack jawed, spacing         outa space           
cadet, the way             I sometimes did             and do when too 
many things converge connect overwhelm


his impatient Joel? an error code on an alarm      Joel          

A crack in that glass cathedral: that         silence that is sound           
static           white noise   my name a question which was and is 
always             somewhere in               my head. And ready to go            
off. You there, kid? Earth         to Joel. I don’t know how


to respond. I am everywhere and nowhere.    Each   moment
calling to another as if they are embedded in each other: the
first son in the second, marriage within marriage, father in
son. Times I have called them by wrong names: Susie/Rachael,
Cyrus/Darius. Each word each step a motion forward dragging
loss along and out in front. Maybe

time has no meaning on the surface            of the moon.

Or maybe it is all you have,             all that matters. Time  
measured in oxygen           in fuel in           heartbeats         in the
distance between call

and response. Or maybe it’s all one moment in the way that
Dylan said it’s all one          song        that to compose is just a
matter of           pulling it gently down from wherever it’s floating
up there                unthreading it from a skyful of notes of  
seconds strung like constellated stars on the surface of an
ocean           like plucking the flightpath of a 
bird from a flock. The journey of a leaf torn free from a storm.
Which may be to say there is no              silence           not where
there is             life. Once, 


by a lake on a mountain in the heat of summer I lost  
Darius. Which is to say he was there and then there was a crowd
and then he was not              anywhere I could find him. That no
one there with me, even Rachael               seemed to know where
he was or had an answer to Where is my son?!  no matter how
frantic the repetition was, increasing in volume and pitch

WHERE           is my son?! Where is my             SON?!  And here I
could try to tell you what it’s like to “lose” a child and to be  
lost to           him to            wake up in a hospital to find him  
gone and wonder 

if he is somewhere out there    a          drift   calling my name
because           I know that silence                 too. Silence as a
waiting         for response. Darius 

was found that day, though still I wake sometimes in the dark,
shouting Where is my son?  And Rachael frightened, and silent,
hand reaching out but            waiting not knowing how               to
ask Which           one? 

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