[As if by saying “morning” on January 8th]

By Michael Palmer b. 1943 Michael Palmer
As if by saying “morning” on January 8th
the light would be set forward
along the megalophonous shore

Was there anything else you wanted to know
about the body where I belong
how the torso is cut off from a waving arm

by the yellow space in the background
and how the head has been put on wrong
or not wrong. Each looked into the water

and was frightened by a different thing
of his or her own making
One was frightened by stripes

and the other by a turtle
even though I knew it wouldn’t bite
but would take me for a ride

It was the time when the phone always rings
to dissolve the mediating scene
in which a phone always rings

to help us with our counting
I say hello to the lateral darkness
who answers guardedly

in painted fragments. The drop of a hat
If the shoe fits. A thin bird flaps
before it sits. Who answers noiselessly

Hans Memling is watching from my matchbox
where the serpent lives
This is his nest

Michael Palmer, "[As if by saying 'morning' on January 8th]" a part from The Book Against Understanding from The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995. Copyright © 1998 by Michael Palmer. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

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

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Poet Michael Palmer b. 1943


SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, The Mind, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse


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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SUBJECT Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, The Mind, Language & Linguistics


SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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