G. M. Palmer
Published on: 9/27/2007
The Penguin and the Clam
Come in, come in, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is your home too, come in, come in!
But your home is so cold, said the Penguin,
And I am so warm; I will not come in.
Not so, not so, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is warm and soft, come in, come in!
But your home is so wet, said the Penguin,
And I am so dry; I will not come in.
Of course, of course, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home's underwater, come in, come in!
But your home is so foul, said the Penguin,
And I am so clean; I will not come in.
Oh no, oh no, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is washed daily, come in, come in!
But your home is so small, said the Penguin,
And I am so large; I will not come in.
Look now, look now, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home has many halls, come in, come in!
But your home has a lock, said the Penguin,
And I have no key; I will not come in.
But wait, but wait, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home's doors are open, come in, come in!
But your home has no food, said the Penguin,
And I am so starved; I will not come in.
Hold on, hold on, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is full of food, come in, come in!
But you are a mollusk, said the Penguin,
And I am a bird; I will not come in.
Now think, now think, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home was made for us, come in, come in!
Well, I am so tired, said the Penguin,
And you are so kind; I guess I'll come in.
Published on: 9/20/2006
Elijah and the Antelope
The sky opens up for you
as you dance across the pasture.
There is no Bucolic that can Rime away your leaping;
the second coming was a shadow of you.
You are the first in everything,
the strong, the swift, the wanted;
your heart is the reason we live.
The daft craft of your speed is dizzying,
we leap to the chase with pointed sticks,
leaving words wherever we pursue.
You guide us to discovery
as your fiery escape
from our futile scribblings
leaves us worshipping.
Published on: 3/9/2006
For the Unborn Dead
No one can get inside of my head,
sack of strawberries sliding out of existence
and onto billboards, picket lines, and lawyers' lies;
a symbol shown without consideration,
Who do you say that I am?
I say I am a no one, a poltergeist,
without spirit or longing;
who should I torment?
Not my mother, who gave me life.
Not my father, who I cannot find.
Not my doctor, who is only blind.
I must blame God, or myself,
or, perhaps, you.
Reading me, resurrecting me so you can feel,
so you can explore your emotions,
so you can design my existence like the flocks of protesters
picketing, picketing. . .
And my brothers and my sisters and my cousins?
The petals of my rosy soul
who, ripped to their tombs
wait for the reinvention of Limbo
to blink back into an eternity of waiting?
I do not think that they will reach heaven today.
Not where I can judge them,
sitting on the lap of God
who will be holding truth like a trigger,
ready to explode the lies of those that slaughter for Christ and for me,
who cannot understand that I am dead already,
and their sacrifice won't bring me back.
Everyone is a murderer.
My mother would've killed me slowly
with the arsenic of apathy.
You would kill me too,
with your eyes that cauterize me onto this page.
Do not fight because I am dead;
Fight because you cannot bring me back.
Because you will not bring me back
except by living.
Published on: 12/12/2005
Seven nights before the day of my birth
I am driving to the ocean, set free
from the cares and worries of spinning Earth.
My frenzied soul, through torment finally calm
I can, for the first time, begin to see
my ravaged face and the sweat on my palm.
The ocean, with driftwood, sea oats, and palm,
is ripe and heavy with the scent of birth;
the waves pour over me and I can see
the fishes, birds, and starlight dancing free,
playing underneath a sky that is calm.
Spreading out widely I enjoy this earth.
As the meteors rain on all the earth
I look at the now clean lines in my palm
and lay down in the sand. The sea, strangely calm,
touches my soles and the sky has no birth
of new stars tonight, but the winds blow free
with scents of change over the changeling sea.
I am silent and in my mind I see
Christ, Jesus, on his donkey, on the earth,
entering Jerusalem, feeling free,
smiling in wonder at the leaves of palm;
and I wonder about our coming birth;
when it is received, will I be as calm?
The ocean assures me, its motion calm;
purity flows in from across the sea
telling me this celebration of birth,
this rising to a new status on earth
is no more change than a crease in my palm,
and no less change than the spirit set free.
I think of the veil, rent to set us free,
disrupting everything, and am not calm.
My same rending, your body in my palm
and I in you, has allowed me to see
the beauty of everything on this earth
is perfect and wonderful through this birth.
A week before my birthday I am free,
touching the earth, expecting life with calm,
waiting to see if the child has my palm.
It is Monday, and there are things to do.
I have returned from the sea to be near
to your side, to the birth, to home; to you.
When I see you shining, I kiss your head,
missing you too much for one night, I fear.
You smile as I bring you breakfast in bed.
You say to me I am sick of this bed
I tell you that there's nothing we can do,
we can't allay or change the doctor's fear
that you need your rest as the birth draws near.
You sigh, smile, and nod your beautiful head;
I know what a pain this must be for you.
Trying to make this easier for you
I buy soft and silken sheets for our bed,
bring you down feather pillows for your head,
I ask is there anything I can do?
You tell me just be near me, just be near,
tell me you love me, there's nothing to fear.
I can't help but think of everyone's fear,
everything so close, thoughts of losing you
crowd in like lepers as the day draws near
and I can't save any from the death-bed.
I feel so helpless, there's nothing to do
except touch your hand, laugh, and kiss your head.
I wonder what direction we will head
as we bring in joy, forgetting all fear.
There are many things before then to do
and I can't spend every moment with you.
When I have to be away from our bed
I am glad that the birth is drawing near.
Now that the morning of our birth is near,
thoughts of my birthday fly far from my head.
I can only think of you, in our bed,
that everything will be fine. Have no fear
that, as I work, I do not think of you;
waking or sleeping, it's all that I do.
There is much to do now, with Easter near;
we say I love you, you lie down your head;
we've nothing to fear, I hold you in bed.
We sit, warm and naked in the water.
The water is hot, the bubbles are mild
as I wash you I think of our daughter,
the two of us becoming one,
think of how it will be to have a child
and if it will be a daughter or son.
Our skin is white from the Winter's pale sun,
wrinkled and pruned we stay in the water,
discussing the life and name of our child.
The name is an argument, and not mild.
We never agree on just the right one,
we'll fight for years if we have a daughter.
We have thirty-five names for a daughter
and eleven more if we have a son.
I wish we could decide on any one.
We are both pruny clean and the water
is starting to chill, but your touch is mild
and besides, water is good for the child.
I cannot believe we're having a child,
the wonder of holding our first daughter,
I'm singing peace on earth and mercy mild
in March! the joy of a child, of a son
or daughter! I kiss you in the water;
our happy family's increasing by one!
Straining for names for our daughter is won,
Joy! I exclaim if she is a girl child!
I'm so giddy I'm spilling the water
on the floor, but I don't care, our daughter
is named! Smiling you say I'll name our son.
Beaten, I concede, outsmarted and mild.
I have to keep myself sated and mild,
for I know that from eleven there is one
name and only one you want for our son:
Joshua will be his name if our child
is a boy, and Joy if she's a daughter.
Frustrated I get out of the water.
The water is cold and turbid and mild.
The fight for our daughter's name lost and won
by me. We know our child will be a son.
We dread the coming of your family,
the dull nagging of your mother.
I don't see why it can't be just us three,
you, me, the baby, or why your father
and mother have to make us feel smothered.
It's just all such a very large bother.
Your parent's gripes are my greatest bother,
I don't know where you got your family,
how growing up you weren't smothered
or how you breathe love, unlike your mother,
cold and angry woman, or your father
who drinks straight bourbon from three until three.
They are here now, and it is four, not three,
they just do not seem to want to bother
with our child; they are here for your father
and the warped feeling he calls family.
You will not speak to him or your mother
and I'm the one in the end who's smothered.
I tell you that I am feeling smothered,
you tell me that soon it will be us three
alone, happy and free without mother
or father or family to bother
us at all. You say we, our family,
will be perfect; you mother, me father.
You say that I'll make such a good father
and kiss me, at least our love's not smothered
by the thick presence of your family.
You tell your folks to leave at half past three,
you say that to have them here's a bother,
you give hotel numbers to your mother.
I say that you'll make such a good mother
and kiss you, waiting to be a father,
hoping that when I'm old I won't bother
our children, and won't make them feel smothered.
You laugh and say it will soon be us three.
We can always ignore my family.
A family! You my wife, his mother,
three of us! I get to be a father!
He won't be smothered, or be a bother.
You and I sit down to eat our last meal;
you tell me you're beginning to get sick.
I say tell me if I can make you feel
better. You say I wish this were all done.
You are not eating, you just pick at the quick
of your nails and watch the blood start to run.
I get up from the table and I run
to the bathroom interrupting our meal;
I grab a band-aid to put on your quick,
you say that you are going to be sick
and I suppose that our supper is done.
I wish this was over is all I feel.
You lean over and I reach down to feel
your head. It is warm and I think you've run
a fever. You say this will soon be done
in-between the heaves of losing our meal.
You tell me slowly as you're being sick
that we should get to the hospital quick.
You say the contractions are coming quick
and all night you have been able to feel
them growing; the approach has made you sick
with anticipation. You tell me run
to the car, get ready, and bring our meal.
Soon now, all of this labor will be done.
Though the words of your speech are barely done,
I have already packed the car as quick
or more than lightning and have brought a meal
for you and for me, because you'll soon feel
better. I pause, but you tell me to run
and get a pan, you're going to be sick.
We're finally in the car. I feel sick
now, that all our waiting is over and done.
I'm flooring the car, but it will not run
any faster, though there is no speed quick
enough we can drive now to make me feel
safe. All you say is did you bring the meal?
I say I brought the meal, you say you're sick.
You say you feel we've left something undone,
but now quick to the hospital we run.
As we're reaching the hospital you cry,
the beginning of all your birthing pain
is too much; you say you're going to die
and you just want them to put you to sleep.
Then you see that your new dress has a stain;
this is all too much. You collapse and weep.
I tell you please darling try not to weep
but all you can do is shudder and cry,
while your ragged quick is leaving a stain
on your dimpled cheek. You cry out in pain
dammit! Just knock me out, put me to sleep!
You grab me and shout I'm going to die!
I tell you don't be silly, you won't die.
Be strong, just breathe, hold me, and please don't weep.
This will be over soon; then you can sleep.
You just wince and tell me there's too much pain.
You dig into my arm. You scream and cry.
Your nails pierce my arm. The blood leaves a stain
on my shirt. You say sorry about the stain.
Between gasps you scream you want me to die
for giving you all this torture and pain
and now I am the one starting to weep.
You say forgive me for making you cry.
On the table now they put you to sleep.
We say I love you as you fall to sleep;
our child comes out fine but the bloody stain
does not subside. Frantic and lost I cry
Father in Heaven, please don't let her die.
as the doctor walks up I start to weep.
Nothing he can say will erase this pain.
You, love, are no longer in any pain;
you've got your wish. You can finally sleep.
Wholly alone now, all I do is weep;
the sun is now rising but the midnight stain
of your death will not rise until I die.
I can't hold our child 'till Sunday. I cry.
I cry out to God for bringing this pain,
for letting you die, not letting me sleep;
I look at my shirt stain, break down, and weep.
With one night before the day of my birth
you are gone and all the world is a dream
made dead. Nothing now has any worth.
My spirit has fled far beyond the pale
and driving into the evil night I scream
out. As I look up I see the stars fail.
The stars fail just as God in you did fail,
snatching sacrificial death from a birth;
exchanging your breath for our child's new scream.
I prick myself to pray this is a dream.
I see in the rearview my face is pale;
I hope that God knows how much you are worth.
I can never be repaid for the worth
of you. All attempts forever will fail,
anything in comparison will pale
to the bright hour in the skies of your birth.
You, my beloved, were my only dream.
As the engine's howl grows louder I scream.
I hope my voice is loud enough to scream
at God's face everything that you are worth
to me, how he has shattered our one dream,
how all life in me, as you, will now fail,
how I curse every moment since my birth,
how his chaotic order leaves me pale.
I see before me the moon, low and pale.
I hear the motor whine and the cold wind scream.
I remember this is a night of birth,
one day after our child came and all my worth,
you, my love, were stolen, and God did fail.
I vainly pray that this is all a dream.
I awake out of my horrific dream
to see my face, my shirt, my heart all pale;
I cannot run from this, I know I'll fail.
From four hundred miles I hear our child scream
and hope that with the sun's rising some worth
I'll finally see from this deadly birth.
Hours before and after birth, death, I dream:
I hold you, my worth, in the moonlight pale,
and then scream, for the dream can only fail.
It is morning on the day of our son.
Holding him I can touch a part of you.
I am waiting to hold our little one,
or mine now rather, and I am not calm.
I start to cry, there's nothing I can do;
I wish you could wipe my tears with your palm.
I begin to dry my eyes with my palm
and as I blink the doctor brings our son.
I am not really sure now what to do.
I would be sure if I only had you
to guide me, comfort me, and make me calm.
Your eyes are shining in our little one.
I cannot believe we're no longer one,
torn from my touch and the sole of my palm,
you, now absent, you, eternally calm.
To you, everywhere, I hold up our son,
I say that I will love him more for you,
I say that he and I'll somehow make do.
I try to be strong, but nothing I do
can make me forget I am alone, one,
half of a soul, empty and without you.
Our child's hand fits snugly in my palm.
I can see your beauty in our bright son:
he is like the morning, silent and calm.
I do not notice that I in my calm
am no longer weeping. All that I do
is translated to joy now in our son.
You are not gone, your face and his are one.
You are in everything now, and my palm,
as it touches his soft face, touches you.
I will still never be whole without you
but the joy of our son can make me calm.
I feel triumphant, my streets lined with palm
and the wonder of you. All you and I do
or have done was meant to bring this small one
into the world; Joshua, our bright son.
By holding our son I can still hold you.
Joshua, our little one, is so calm,
he knows just what to do, clasping my palm.
Published on: 9/8/2005
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper thy peace to my soul.
Was it cirrhosis or Old Timer's disease?
None of us knew, but Dad wasn't Dad anymore -
those skinny arms, those blue eyes once so fierce
were now old milk. Oh, now he could be fierce
when he was defied, but we knew it was the disease.
That was what he had become, nothing more.
Taking the family picture; Dad not moving:
Thanksgiving weekend was an eggshell ballet.
The grandkids wanted stories that were not there.
I don't know what we gave thanks for but there,
at the end of the table, Dad sat, never moving.
Eyes open and hands clawed like they were when he lay
next year in the hospice bed as we all watched
his left angular artery push out his genius
and we closed those milk-blue eyes. As everyone
let go to hold each other, I still held one
cold claw of his in mine. I sat and watched
longer than the rest, trying to stay his genius.