Eighth Sky

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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