Autobiography 3

Yes, I was born on the street known as Glass—as Paper, Scissors or Rock.


Several of my ancestors had no hands.


Several of my ancestors used their pens


in odd ways.


A child of seven I prayed for breath.


Each day I passed through the mirrored X




into droplets of rain congealed around dust.


I never regretted this situation.


Though patient as an alchemist I failed to learn English.


Twenty years later I burned all my furniture.


Likewise the beams of my house


to fuel the furnace.




Once I bought an old boat.


I abandoned the tyrannical book of my dreams


and wrote about dresses, jewels, furniture and menus


eight or ten times in a book of dreams.


It sets me to dreaming when I dust it off.


Our time is a between time; best to stay out of it.




Send an occasional visiting card to eternity or a few stanzas to the living


so they won’t suspect we know they don’t exist.


Sign them Sincerely Yours, Warmest Regards, Thinking of You or

Deepest Regrets.


Brown river outside my window, an old boat riding the current.


What I like most is to stay in my apartment.


So that is my life, pared of anecdotes.




I go out occasionally to look at a dance.


Otherwise the usual joys, worries and inner mourning.


Occasionally in an old boat I navigate the river


when I find the time.


Water swallows the days.


I think maybe that’s all




I have to say


except that an irregular heart sometimes speaks to me.


It says, A candle is consuming a children’s alphabet.


It says, Attend to each detail of the future-past.


Last night the moon was divided precisely in half.


Today a terrifying wind.


Michael Palmer, "Autobiography 3" from The Promises of Glass. Copyright © 2000 by Michael Palmer.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: The Promises of Glass (New Directions, 2000)
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