company of moths


Writers are part of that even larger company of readers, and in the second poem of the collection Palmer suggests that he is at that point in his career where he can address even his own poetry as if it were another’s (though this has probably been true since the beginning), reusing the phrase “Dearest Reader” (“Dearest Reader from the future-past”), which both appeared in and served as title for the first poem of First Figure (1984). While there is nothing new under the sun or after Sun (1988), there is still this projected reader to address and somehow please by variations. In a poem called “Night Gardening” late in the book, the poet makes a bad-faith promise to this reader both to be new and to be no longer the same:

A reader writes to complain
that there are no cellphones in my poems,
so here is one,

its body chrome,
its face a metallic blue.
It’s neither transmitting nor receiving.

A woman from Duluth requests
that I cease sending secret messages
to her in my poems.

This I will do forthwith.

And the blackbird at evening.

She says, you have misrepresented the
there where it turns

by the holm oak and the bed
of winter hyacinths.

This I will correct.

more from Geoffrey O’Brien on Michael Palmer at the Boston Review here.