Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Michael Palmer


Write this. We have burned all their villages

Write this. We have burned all the villages and the people in them

Write this. We have adopted their customs and their manner of

Write this. A word may be shaped like a bed, a basket of tears
or an X

In the notebook it says, It is the time of mutations, laughter at
jokes, secrets beyond the boundaries of speech

I now turn to my use of suffixes and punctuation, closing Mr.
Circle with a single stroke, tearing the canvas from its wall, joined
to her, experiencing the same thoughts at the same moment,
inscribing them on a loquat leaf

Write this. We have begun to have bodies, a now here and a now
gone, a past long ago and one still to come

Let go of me for I have died and am in a novel and was a lyric poet,
certainly, who attracted crowds to mountaintops. For a nickel I will
appear from this box. For a dollar I will have text with you and
answer three questions

First question. We entered the forest, followed its winding paths,
and emerged blind

Second question. My townhouse, of the Jugendstil, lies by

Third question. He knows he will wake from this dream,
conducted in the mother-tongue

Third question. He knows his breathing organs are manipulated by
God, so that he is compelled to scream

Third question. I will converse with no one on those days of the
week which end in y

Write this. There is pleasure and pain and there are marks and
signs. A word may be shaped like a fig or a pig, an effigy or an egg
       but there is only time for fasting and desire, device and
design, there is only time to swerve without limbs, organs or face
into a
      scientific silence, pinhole of light

Say this. I was born on an island among the dead. I learned
language on this island but did not speak on this island. I am
writing to you from this island. I am writing to the dancers from
this island. The writers do not dance on this island

Say this. There is a sentence in my mouth, there is a chariot in my
mouth. There is a ladder. There is a lamp whose light fills empty
space and a space which swallows light     

A word is beside itself. Here the poem is called What Speaking
Means to Say
            though I have no memory of my name

Here the poem is called Theory of the Real, its name is Let's Call
This, and its name is called A Wooden Stick. It goes yes-yes, no-
no. It goes one and one

I have been writing a book, not in my native language, about
violins and smoke, lines and dots, free to speak and become the
things we speak, pages which sit up, look around and row
resolutely toward the setting sun

Pages torn from their spines and added to the pyre, so that they
will resemble thought

Pages which accept no ink

Pages we've never seen-first called Narrow Street, then Half a
Fragment, Plain of Jars or Plain of Reeds, taking each syllable in
her mouth, shifting position and passing it to him

Let me say this. Neak Luong is a blur. It is Tuesday in the
hardwood forest. I am a visitor here, with a notebook

The notebook lists My New Words and Flag above White. It
claims to have no inside
                        only characters like A-against-Herself, B,
C, L and N, Sam, Hans Magnus, T. Sphere, all speaking in the
dark with their hands

                     G for Gramsci or Goebbels, blue hills, cities,
cities with hills, modern and at the edge of time

                                                 F for
alphabet, Z for A, an H in an arbor, shadow, silent wreckage, W or
M among stars

What last. Lapwing. Tesseract. X perhaps for X. The villages are
known as These Letters -- humid, sunless. The writing occus on
their walls

© 1987 Michael Palmer