Conjunctions:26 Sticks & Stones

Two Poems
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

What I like most is to stay in my apartment.

So that is my whole 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.


Autobiography 5

Not exactly a mark, not exactly a trace.

More like a segment of recording tape.

After I arrived I took a job painting broccoli, cabbage and

on supermarket windows

as I was putting on my face:

base, blusher, mascara, ultra high-gloss lip enamel

when the word ”zurückgehen” flooded my brain

as if spoken by the mirror

over the dressing table in which an image

no longer gathered much light, its

reflecting glaze having decayed.

We were so close that the way

we came apart was not even visible to the participants.

Then I became a painter of paintings briefly

then I eliminated paint.

Dear Phil, What a hellish season it’s been.

For a time I thought I was another

but now I’m selling shovels and rakes, running a few guns

and awaiting the arrival

of a photographic apparatus.

Perhaps if a gate deforms in parallax

a phrase will pass through it.

Perhaps if a face can be recorded

but isn’t that another story?

Isn’t there another story

consistent with sand?

How it turns to mirror-glass

when heated in your hand.

The sounds it makes

make another story.

It’s completely silent here

so we hear nothing but high and low tones


as we take inventory.

The people come in shades of blue.

They take everything from you.

Michael Palmer is the author of The Promises of Glass and Codes Appearing: Poems 1979–1988 (both New Directions). His contribution to a multiple collaboration with the painter Gerhard Richter was published by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as Richter 858.