The Wrong Hours

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
drift away—

            if you were anywhere near me
                        I’d know less what wading
shoulder-high feels like and more

                                    of your skin’s
            careless softness
                        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
            with you.

Driftwood, then, as a floating home,
gribbles, shipworms—

            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
warning note—

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.  

Leave Me

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
             like sundown—anesthesia                                    
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

The Alarmist

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-
complaints, mercurial-love-letters.

            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
                                     on you.

You’re a space observatory.

You’re a weatherman.

You’re a spy.

poem first appeared online in Bourgeon, Summer 2019

B&W Traditional Head Shot

Alison Palmer is the author of the poetry chapbook, The Need for Hiding (Dancing Girl Press, 2018). To read an interview visit 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