H

Yet the after is still a storm

as witness bent shadbush

and cord grass in stillness

 

sand littered with the smallest of fragments

whether shell or bone

That city we are far from

 

is still frozen, still in ruins

(except its symmetries be renewed

by sleep, its slant colors redeemed)

 

Nothing has changed but its name

and the air that it breathes

There’s still no truth in making sense

 

while the ash settles, so fine that

planes keep falling from the sky

And the name once again to be the old one

 

Saint Something, Saint Gesture, Saint Entirely the Same

as if nothing or no one had been nameless in the interim

or as if still could be placed beside storm

 

that simply, as in a poem

Have you heard the angels with sexed tongues,

met the blind boy who could see with his skin,

 

his body curled inward like a phrase,

like an after in stillness or a letter erased

Have you seen what’s written on him

 

as question to an answer or calendar out of phase

Add up the number of such days

Add illness and lilt as formed on the tongue

 

Add that scene identical with its negative,

that sentence which refuses to speak,

present which cannot be found


Michael Palmer, "H" from At Passages. Copyright © 1995 by Michael Palmer.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: At Passages (New Directions, 1995)
More Poems by Michael Palmer