The Distance Up Close


From the Archive

Lovis Corinth, Walchensee, Schneelandschaft, 1919.

Molly Peacock’s poem “The Distance Up Close” appeared in our Summer 1983 issue. Her most recent book is The Paper Garden

The Distance Up Close

All my life I’ve had goals to go after, goals
in a molten distance. And just the way snows
in the distance, dense and white among groves
of bare trees, lessen as I approach and show
not white, but a mix of mud and leaves among rows
of breathing trees, the fantasies that rose
from my young mind, guarded against my foes’
mocking by my own mocking, lessen. I know
what I’ve approached, and I am very frightened. It shows
in my slipping face in the melting present. Goals
far off are fire and ice, like a walk through snow
toward a blood-orange sunset. But there is no
perfection like that in coming up close, no
purity in intimacy. Embracing the world, nose
to brow with what we’ve got and lost, hugging old sorrows
as they fade into mud and leaves, in like shedding clothes,
is like lovers saying, lets-take-off-our-clothes.
The word is made flesh in their bodies: does is knows.
The world is made flesh by the snows
fading, then merging into mud and leaves, goals
of long ago emerging among trees in rows
in a distance molten as the world comes up close.