Work by Alison Palmer
The Stunned Dethronement of the Master’s Body
The morning clouds descend, gods
of fog and oh-but-it’s-still-dark.
You sweat in the cold beneath a weighted blanket
that settles your nerves.
As you dream
into sleep, you kiss
another woman so real you wake up disappointed.
A woman with Hera around her neck.
Hera who breaks Zeus over her motherly knee.
Zeus, the lover you often wish I was.
And love, if only the exit
was as clean as the entry.
—title from, “Courtship,” Carl Phillips
The Remains of Trees Sing Nothing of Triumph
A sea tree is meant to
if you were anywhere near me
I’d know less what wading
shoulder-high feels like and more
of your skin’s
taut to swoon me.
But this tidewrack so often
a nuisance at the mouths of rivers—
you keep twilight caught
between each trunk,
smooth from turning over,
driven to decay with rounded edges, thus
this longer day
Driftwood, then, as a floating home,
aren’t you nutrients, I think
to myself, aren’t you
just the smallest bit
in the food web.
And this is meant as a
the foundation of sand
dunes can give; it’s quiet
that often hurts the most.
At One Point Beautiful Things
It isn’t songbirds this time. It isn’t a blinding white birch
that keeps me awake inside my dream of you. No,
it’s the way the river flows, splits the land in two, clean shifts,
with tide-less waters and thoughts of the heart-beaten
(my soil turned to dust). Reshape, enlighten, redesign the ghost
of me I let live for so long; so long my silhouette, dark
pall of a dress. You take no notice, anyway. And this. Oh,
this is why I must leave you / on the porch looking out
into such an early morning in my mind that you are startled
by what you perceive to be emptiness. Whereas I, I find
all of silence happily sky-strewn; the paper birch’s light
peels off in telling layers, After your fires, our colonies,
and although we’re short-lived, our novels gather, thinly
on the grass. My eyes open to Dante’s Inferno;
you’ve kept me up most of the night with the possibility
that our paths are heaven-like: lit but disparate, we’re
almost there. Still, I leave you in the marsh of Styx. Through
gurgled mud, no one understands your final dirge.
Box full of darkness, at once
a terrible monster, or a gift. I
seem to be saying what’s similar
to goodbye—blind hands, feverish
palms against what’s left
of you. Please, fight
for me. Your fear
of vulnerability fills the room
for the living.
I want more years
to understand that this too, this
lacking leaves me full—I do right
by the moon and fissure
its far-reaching light. This evening
comes freely to me—another box
full of dark answers: My love,
I lay slowly down.
—after, “The Uses of Sorrow,” Mary Oliver
Don’t believe me when I cry,
I’m dying—we all are.
Within this cacophony
of bells, discord—truth
or love is not enough, please
stay longer beside me. Wild
secret, the wind, and no
trusting years between us—the gun
always aimed at the solitary hare.
I’m dying, I cry, I give
up—don’t you believe me.
The sound I exhale is wolf-
like, and your ears perk
because desperation sounds
a lot like surrender—white flag,
snowy woods, that time we
cracked the pond in half. How
powerful of us.
After the music burns to ash,
the sun does, too—believe me.
Everything is about to numb,
so I bring you here beneath a cold,
clear sky—I forget my bell
to warn you; we gather handfuls
of now. I figure, if we build
up the snow around us
we’ll have years to love.
I silence my cries—
—poem first appeared in The Journal, 44.1 Winter 2020
As Hearts Do
or radios, and on my end
a shivered ear against cold.
Pretend to hear you: I’ve changed,
look, look for me—
I recite prayer-fragments, daily-
As the sun grows dispirited,
you might tilt moments into me.
How in god’s name
can I keep us here.
A Cartographer’s Confusion
The sun at Polaris.
Between the moon and the Pleiades.
Angles our hips destroy, one pressed on the other.
And east of our bed, vased-tulips, a card
with animals on the front that reads:
Meant for each otter
How closely I let my lips pull to yours
as you fall asleep at a forty-five,
arms splayed, and I have you, starfish.
If you’re an intercardinal direction, then
southwest (SW). I lie
between the letters, the “x” degree, down
by your bare feet now, curling the map.
So, the sextant,
compass, quadrant. I turn the telescope
You’re a space observatory.
You’re a weatherman.
You’re a spy.
—poem first appeared online in Bourgeon, Summer 2019
Alison Palmer is the author of the poetry chapbook, The Need for Hiding (Dancing Girl Press, 2018). To read an interview visit http://www.thepoetsbillow.org. Alison’s work appears or is forthcoming in FIELD, The Cincinnati Review, River Styx, Columbia Review, The Journal, Ovenbird Poetry, Rogue Agent, The Night Heron Barks and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and currently writes outside Washington, D.C. Find Alison on the web at alisonpalmer.org.