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Michael Palmer

Dream of a Language that Speaks

Hello Gozo, here we are,
     the spinning world, has

it come this far?
     Hammering things, speeching them,

nailing the anthrax
     to its copper plate,

matching the object to its name,
     the star to its chart.

(The sirens, the howling machines,
     are part of the music it seems

just now, and helices of smoke
     engulf the astonished eye;

and then our keening selves, Gozo,
     whirled between voice and echo.)

So few and so many,
     have we come this far?

Sluicing ink onto snow?
     I’m tired, Gozo,

tired of the us/ not us,
     of the factories of blood,

tired of the multiplying suns
     and tired of colliding with

the words as they appear
     without so much as a “by your leave,”

without so much as a greeting.
     The more suns the more dark —

is it not always so —
     and in the gathering dark

Ghostly Tall and Ghostly Small
     making their small talk

as they pause and they walk
     on a path of stones,

as they walk and walk,
     skeining their tales,

testing the dust,
     higher up they walk —

there’s a city below,
     pinpoints of light —

high up they walk,
     flicking dianthus, mountain berries,

turk’s-caps with their sticks.
     Can you hear me? asks Tall.

Do you hear me? asks Small.
     Question pursuing question.

And they set out their lamp
     amid the stones.

for Yoshimasu Gozo

Michael Palmer, Berlin, 2001, photo by John Tranter

Michael Palmer, Berlin, 2001
photo by John Tranter

Michael Palmer was born in New York City in 1943. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988 (New Directions, 2001), The Promises of Glass (2000), Notes for Echo Lake (1981), The Circular Gates (1974), and Blake’s Newton (1972). His work has appeared in literary magazines such as Boundary 2, Berkeley Poetry Review, Sulfur, Conjunctions, and O-blek. Michael Palmer’s honors include two grants from the Literature Program of the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. He lives in San Francisco.

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