Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Michael Palmer


This can be seen as placing a mirror against the page.
The mountain is where we live, a circus there, a triangle
of unequal sides the days no sun appears.

This is life in the square inch field of the square foot house,
a September particle, biochip, or liquid in a jar,
and here is snow for the month to follow, light easy to move

but difficult to fix. The cat on the book has fleas.
It's a real cat with real fleas at least,
while the book is neither fixed nor field.

As soon as you had gone an image formed in order to be erased.
First an entryway then a left and right which seemed to be the 
This letter explains everything and must never be sent.

This other arranges figures along an endless colonnade
imperceptibly darkening toward red. One pretends to be the case
the other is. Mornings the hands tremble, evidence of a missing
Arrows will tell you where the words are meant to lead,
from hall to hall apparently. The hair is thinner
and the veins stand out a bit more.

Who could have known he'd be dead within the week,
victim of a loosening thread, the system by which we perceive.
Thus the castle above valley and plain, the logical circuitry and
   other such tricks,
the constant scanning, all kinds of features built in.
And thus the difference between sign and sigh, and the bells which
   signal a return.
The dog instructs the goats, the man instructs the dog.

Should we count the remaining trees to decide what they mean as
traces of a conversation possibly, or a larger plan. You enter the
   stories as a surd
and sleep through them, ignoring successive warnings,

shards of cloisonné, broken table legs, a canopied bed.
They are there because the rest have left.
These are scalings of a sentence.      

© 1987 Michael Palmer