Letter 7

By Michael Palmer b. 1943 Michael Palmer
But the buried walls and our mouths of fragments,
no us but the snow staring at us . . .

And you Mr. Ground-of_what, Mr. Text, Mr. Is-Was,
can you calculate the ratio between wire and window,

between tone and row, copula and carnival
and can you reassemble light from the future-past

in its parabolic nest
or recite an entire winter’s words,

its liberties and psuedo-elegies,
the shell of a street-car in mid-turn

or scattered fires in the great hall
I would say not-I here I’d say The Book of Knots

I’d say undertows and currents and waterspouts,
streaks of phosphorus and rivervine winds

Dear Z, I’d say it’s time, it’s nearly time, it’s almost, it’s
       just about, it’s long
past time now time now for the vex- for the vox- for the
       voices of shadows,

time for the prism letters, trinkets and shrouds,
for a whirl in gauzy scarves around the wrecked piazza

Messieurs-Dames, Meine Herren und Damen, our word-ballon,
       you will note, is slowly
rising over the parched city,

its catacombs, hospitals and experimental gardens,
its toll-gates, ghettos and ring-roads,

narcoleptics and therapists and stray cats
Ladies and Gentleen, our menu for this flight,

due to temporary shortages,
will be an alpha-omega soup, Bactrian hump, and nun’s farts

As we enter the seventh sphere, you will discover a thin
layer of ice just beginning

to form on your limbs
Do not be alarmed, this is normal

You will experience difficulty breathing, this is normal
The breathing you experience is difficulty, this is normal

Dear Z, Should I say space
constructed of echoes, rifts, mirrors, a strange

year for touring the interior
Should I say double dance, Horn, axis and wheel

Dear A, Scuttled ships are clogging the harbors
and their cargoes lie rotting on the piers

Prepare executions and transfusions
Put on your latest gear

“Letter 7” by Michael Palmer, from The Lion Bridge Copyright © 1998 by Michael Palmer. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: The Lion Bridge (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1998)

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Poet Michael Palmer b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Nature, The Body, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, The Mind, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Michael Palmer was born in New York City and educated at Harvard in the early 1960s, where he encountered Confessional poetry. His opposition to Confessionalism found root in a developing poetics when he attended the landmark 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, a three-week gathering where he met Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and Clark Coolidge. Correspondence with those three poets greatly influenced Palmer’s early development . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Nature, The Body, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, The Mind, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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