Michael Palmer

Notre Musique

I imagine the film.
It is not it is finally not

Notre Musique after all.

I can imagine
the film we imagined

though there’s nothing
strictly speaking

that I can imagine.
That is to say

I can imagine nothing,
but nothing more,

or nothing,
but nothing else.

Once in the library
there was a fire

and the books consumed the fire
while the authors of the books

stood idly by,
the authors in eternity

among the buried words
beneath the pavement,

the authors among the flies
on a heap of dung

in a fallow field,
the authors lost at sea

in a storm of words,
the authors shorn of memory,

the authors in rags
in a film called Notre Musique,

a silent film now
playing almost playing

at the Orpheum
or is it the Thalia,

the Clio, the Melpomine
or the Music Hall of Vagrant Souls,

a nameless film of endless length
forbidden by the designated

descendants of the prophets.
Admission free.

(pour Liliane)

Solunar Tables

Pain of the child set afire
before blindered eyes
a world’s eyes

Poem of the bird
exploding in flight
in our random skies

Pain of the ladder
its storm-shattered steps
defying ascent

Pain of the Hunger Moon
dangling over hoar frost
by a failing thread

Should we cut it
for those without bread
Pain of the word

Poem of the word
unheard unread
The darkling river

and the steadfast ferryman
who refuses your coin
The wave that embraces

while it destroys
Our secret entertainments
at the Madman’s Market

and our alphabets without end
that spell themselves
and weave themselves

into a trembling web
as the poem-road below
of silences and stones

comes to a final turn

Street Song

Mad Mary sits on a stoop
She tells
how she’s birthed the Christ

many times
sometimes in rain
sometimes in snow

sometimes amidst the flames
of war in the streets
I have traveled many leagues

beneath the sea
far so much farther
than the eye can see

and the little I sleep I sleep
balanced on a blackened bier
swaddled by the news of the day

from near and far away
I carry death in my pocket
that loving friend

and I’ll pull him out
when the song must end
What more is there to say

Michael Palmer is the author of Thread (New Directions, 2011); Company of Moths (New Directions, 2005), which was shortlisted for the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize; Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988 (2001); The Promises of Glass (2000); The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995 (1998); At Passages (1996); Sun (1988); First Figure (1984); Notes for Echo Lake (1981); Without Music (1977); The Circular Gates (1974); and Blake’s Newton (1972). He is also the author of a prose work, The Danish Notebook (Avec Books, 1999). He has translated work from French, Russian and Portuguese, editing and contributing translations to Nothing The Sun Could Not Explain: Twenty Contemporary Brazilian Poets (Sun & Moon Press, 1997), and Blue Vitriol (Avec Books, 1994), a collection of poetry by Alexei Parshchikov. He also translated Theory of Tables (1994), a book written by Emmanuel Hocquard after translating Palmer’s “Baudelaire Series” into French. He has frequently collaborated with others artists, including the painter Gerhard Richter and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Palmer’s awards include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America. From 1999 to 2004, he served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in San Francisco.

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.