Re: Wisdom

by Joel Peckham Issue: Fall 2018 Special Issue on Justice
You think wisdom is a passive thing, that you can sit
idly by, pretend that sleep is listening. So you shelter
in place, knowing you are not the target. There must be
a place between meeting rage with rage and not
giving a shit, between living in fear and ignoring
the threat. Wind and breaking waves push water
toward the beach and parents whisper, watch the kids,
knowing how a current forms a rip, knowing how quickly
calm can turn and pull even the best of swimmers beyond
reach. The line between floating and drowning is thin
and may be in knowing how to resist in what direction
and when. To swim directly at the current or along
the beach. Or stay out of the water. Always there is
a mother tearing her hair and screaming for the lost
and the ones who might be saved—she who knows
her children are everywhere, a voice gone ragged,
warning if one is in danger, they are all, and so
are we. Stop. You’re scaring the kids, someone says
even as the river of foam forms on the surface
and the water muddies.  Even as the shore recedes.

Joel Peckham

Joel Peckham is an assistant professor of American Literature at Marshall University and the author of five collections of poetry, including Why Not Take All of Me and God’s Bicycle. His memoir, Resisting Elegy, appeared from Chicago Review Press in 2012 and a new collection of essays, Body Memory, appeared from New Rivers Press in 2016. He has published poems and essays in many journals, including Brevity, The Sun, The Southern Review, River Teeth, Prairie Schooner, and others. He is also a scholar of American Literature whose articles on Southern literature have appeared in American Literature, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, and other journals.