Eighth Sky

By Michael Palmer b. 1943 Michael Palmer
It is scribbled along the body
Impossible even to say a word
An alphabet has been stored beneath the ground
It is a practice alphabet, work of the hand
Yet not, not marks inside a box
For example, this is a mirror box
Spinoza designed such a box
and called it the Eighth Sky
called it the Nevercadabra House
as a joke
Yet not, not so much a joke
not Notes for Electronic Harp
on a day free of sounds
(but I meant to write “clouds”)
At night these same boulevards fill with snow
Lancers and dancers pass a poisoned syringe,
as you wrote, writing of death in the snow,
Patroclus and a Pharoah on Rue Ravignan
It is scribbled across each body
Impossible even to name a word
Look, you would say, how the sky falls
at first gently, then not at all
Two chemicals within the firefly are the cause,
twin ships, twin nemeses
preparing to metamorphose
into an alphabet in stone
                                                         to Max Jacob

Michael Palmer, "Eighth Sky" from At Passages. Copyright © 1995 by Michael Palmer.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: At Passages (New Directions, 1995)

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Poet Michael Palmer b. 1943


SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Allusion


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 Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Poetry & Poets


SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Allusion

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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