Dream of a Language that Speaks

by Michael Palmer

copyright ©Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Michael Palmer

Hello Gozo, here we are,
      the spinning world, has

it come this far?
      Hammering things, speeching them,

nailing the anthrax
      to its copper plate,

matching the object to its name,
      the star to its chart.

(The sirens, the howling machines,
      are part of the music it seems

just now, and helices of smoke
      engulf the astonished eye;

and then our keening selves, Gozo,
      whirled between voice and echo.)

So few and so many,
      have we come this far?

Sluicing ink onto snow?
      I’m tired, Gozo,

tired of the us/not us,
      of the factories of blood,

tired of the multiplying suns
      and tired of colliding with

the words as they appear
      without so much as a “by your leave,”

without so much as a greeting.
      The more suns the more dark –

is it not always so –
      and in the gathering dark

Ghostly Tall and Ghostly Small
      making their small talk

as they pause and they walk
      on a path of stones,

as they walk and walk,
      skeining their tales,

testing the dust,
      higher up they walk –

there’s a city below,
      pinpoints of light –

high up they walk,
      flicking dianthus, mountain berries,

turk’s-caps with their sticks.
      Can you hear me? asks Tall.

Do you hear me? asks Small.
      Questions pursuing question.

And they set out their lamp
a      mid the stones.

for Yoshimasu Gozo

From Company of Moths, by Michael Palmer

About My Mother

by Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

copyright ©2014 by Adam Zagajewski / Translation copyright © 2018 by Clare Cavanagh.

I could never say anything about my mother:
how she repeated, you’ll regret it someday,
when I’m not around anymore, and how I didn’t believe
in either “I’m not” or “anymore,”
how I liked to watch as she read bestsellers,
always turning to the last chapter first,
how in the kitchen, convinced it’s not
her proper place, she made Sunday coffee,
or, even worse, filet of cod,
how she studied the mirror while expecting guests,
making the face that best kept her
from seeing herself as she was (I take
after her here and in a few other weaknesses),
how she went on at length about things
that weren’t her strong suit and how I stupidly
teased her, for example, when she
compared herself to Beethoven going deaf,
and I said, cruelly, but you know he
had talent, and how she forgave everything
and how I remember that, and how I flew from Houston
to her funeral and couldn’t say anything
and still can’t.

An Enemy Comes Down the Hill

Fady Joudah, translating from the Arabic written by Ghassan Zaqtan

copyright ©Translation copyright © 2012 by Fady Joudah

When he comes down
or is seen coming down
when he reveals to us that he is coming down.

The waiting and silence

his entire lack
when he hearkens before the plants.

His caution when he comes down
like one postponed by a hush,
and by his being not “us”
and not “here”
death begins.

He bought a flower
nothing more, a flower
that has no vase and leaves no will.

From the hill, he can spot the military checkpoint, the paratroopers,
he can spot the squatters, the mountain edges, and the only road
where their feet will leave a print in the rocks, mud, and water.

Losses also will appear from the hill
abandoned without effort.

And the fragility in shadow,
the Jewish man with a long mustache
who resembles the dead Arabs here.

From the mountain edges, all the caves will appear peaceful
and the road will seem as it were.

While he was coming down
the caves continued to stare
and blink in the cold.

Manipulating Manifesting
(Re)generating Landscapes

Abigail Chabitnoy

copyright ©2019 Abigail Kerstetter

I buried my bones.
              No trace was left.

I buried my bones and the landscape
              became settled in [its] disturbances.

There’s no telling where the hand that digs might
              unearth the outline of a dwelling place,
                            the shape of ivory in the process [of]

becoming human.
              It is not evident.

I buried my bones in the fault
              [where] they were of little consequence,
                            more matters to settle

in the end.
              The land remembered only now.

I want to live somewhere old
              in the earth. On the water
                            now there are many boats, [but] the vermin

they are hunting [is] dead
              with metal feet. His pelt
                            [is] already sinking out of reach.

Old in the water. Let me sink
              [mine] in enough earth to bury [me].

Mother, it was my fault. I buried each of my other selves
              until I couldn’t see [ ] the earth was full.
              I was born(e) in this wound mother.

Singing made i[t] so. Steel singing. Destined
              men singing mercantile songs, manifesting
              swindling songs.

Singing say you see. Singing beautiful
              spacious skies, singing
              the brave in d(r)ead silence reposes.

You sang this land for me, (m)other. Each night
              I must find a new way to lay these arms
              stiff under the weight [of] my body.

I don’t know what I expected but at length I found myself a loan. I found
myself a part in a room of my own making, susceptible to drowning, to cave-ins.
I couldn’t hold a shape my own among so many bones and matter besides.
The field turned relic into me.

                            like this, Apaq?
can I wear these faces? which [way]
              shall I bend these bones?
does my skin show [through] these furs?
              do my metal feet b(ear) too much weight?
can I bend my arms in light of mo(u)rning?
                            can I bend them in name for what I (k)now believe?

Return every (last) bone to the l[and]
              I will shape my body in the sound [of]
                            waves breaking the shore

[if] singing made it so
              these days will not be many

I wonder if you hear me, Apaq.
              I wonder if I say your [right] words.

Michael, will you row the boat (a)shore and dig a womb-shaped home
              with my arms
              for your arms
              for all the world worn arms

[until] the waters b(r)each our skin and skin these bones
              in their weight
              in the sand
              to begin again without blood in the print?

The Good Companion

David Harsent

copyright ©David Harsent, 2007

Laid-up with all about me
a man could want: a stack of the cross-
hatched notebooks I always use,
a Stabilo pen,
a brand-new thriller that famously stole its plot
from The Spanish Tragedy, vodka,

a pineapple tub
of ice to sap (a little) the bright
fever that loosened my teeth, so I half-expected
to see them drop to the quilt
like sticky Chiclets,
laid-up like that, alone

you might say, but well provided for,
I felt a sleep coming on, so thick
I might have been sleeved in darkness; and next
fell into a dream quicker
than my eyes could close: in fact
I’d already declared for Bel-imperia

and was just getting down
past the damp in the crook of her knee
to those salty, pink petals
of crêpe-de-chine,
when a voice I recognised
had me up and out of there and back to my bed –

a hot, synaptic zip
that almost made me believe I’d woken up
until I saw the tattoo:
a letter to every finger neatly between
the knuckle joints,
as he collared the bottle and turned

a page or two of my notebooks. ‘Just here:
is this lorel or Lorelei? – each syllable sharp
as the detonations in ice
when you pour on vodka – ‘It’s plain
what’s fretting you, but look,
you’ll know it sure enough

when someone you claim to recognise climbs up
out of your bones
and legs it for the door
without so much as a kiss-
my-arse-goodbye (on a darkening day of “rain
moving in from the west”) or even a shred of song.’

from Verso 4

Dionne Brand

copyright ©2018 Dionne Brand

To verse, to turn, to bend, to plough, a furrow, a row, to turn around, toward, to traverse

When I was nine coming home one day from school, I stood at the top of my street and looked down its gentle incline, toward my house obscured by a small bend, taking in the dipping line of the two-bedroom scheme of houses, called Mon Repos, my rest. But there I’ve strayed too far from the immediate intention. When I was nine coming home from school one day, I stood at the top of my street and knew, and felt, and sensed looking down the gentle incline with the small houses and their hibiscus fences, their rosebush fences, their ixora fences, their yellow and pink and blue paint washes; the shoemaker on the left upper street, the dressmaker on the lower left, and way to the bottom the park and the deep culvert where a boy on a bike pushed me and one of my aunts took a stick to his mother’s door. Again, when I was nine coming home one day in my brown overall uniform with the white blouse, I stood on the top of my street knowing, coming to know in that instant when the sun was in its four o’clock phase and looking down I could see open windows and doors and front door curtains flying out. I was nine and I stood at the top of the street for no reason except to make the descent of the gentle incline toward my house where I lived with everyone and everything in the world, my sisters and my cousins were with me, we had our bookbags and our four o’clock hunger with us and our grandmother and everything we loved in the world were waiting in the yellow washed house, there was a hibiscus hedge and a buttercup bush and zinnias waiting and for several moments all this seemed to drift toward the past; again when I was nine and stood at the head of my street and looked down the gentle incline toward my house in the four o’clock coming-home sunlight, it came over me that I was not going to live here all my life, that I was going away and never returning some day.

from Love Toward the Ashes

Joanna Trzeciak, translating from the Polish written by Tadeusz Rózewicz

copyright ©English translation copyright © 2011 by Joanna Trzeciak

What sprouts out of the ashes of
Samuel Beckett?

somewhere in this space is
his fading breath
and then a motionless utterance

in the beginning was the word
in the end of the body

What decomposes? What suffers?
meat still full of love
spoils in time
one has to bury it


Michael Palmer

copyright ©2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Michael Palmer

Soon the present will arrive
at the end of its long voyage

from the Future-Past to Now
weary of the endless nights in cheap motels

in distant nebulae
Will the usual host

of politicians and celebrities
show up for the occasion

or will they huddle out of sight
in confusion and fear


Clayton Eshleman, translating from the Spanish written by César Vallejo

copyright ©2007 The Regents of the University of California

Poet and translator Clayton Eshleman

   I tell myself: at last I have escaped the noise;
no one sees me on my way to the sacred nave.
Tall shadows attend,
and Darío who passes with lyre in mourning.

   With innumerable steps the gentle Muse emerges,
and my eyes go to her, like chicks to corn.
Ethereal tulles and sleeping titmice harass her,
while the blackbird of life dreams in her hand.

   My God, you are merciful, for you have bestowed this nave,
where these blue sorcerers perform their duties.
Darío of celestial Americas! They are so much
like you! And from your braids they make their hair shirts.

   Like souls seeking burials of absurd gold,
those wayward archpriests of the heart,
probe deeper, and appear … and addressing us from afar,
bewail the monotonous suicide of God!

from No Sky

Sarah Riggs, translated from the French written by Etel Adnan

copyright ©2019 by Etel Adnan English translation © 2019 by Sarah Riggs

Truths are
department stores:
you are going up,
you take the escalator,
you don’t come back

In the tentative
darkness of the
raisins there was
half of the
then the shadow
of the past

Sometimes I get ready for the
  voyage of no return,
but dawn raises the curtains,
  and my adolescence
  is standing at the corner
      of nowhere

Under the wonder of
cold skies