Alaska & This Is Not My Town
– Poetry by GM Palmer –
Lone, the starched beaches stretch beyond me;
Bold mountains cold as the artists’ blood
Stare me down like I can answer earthquakes.
Teutonic, washed in a culture of knives,
I watch for anything to read in these lights,
The rising Phoenix of what never was:
Myths dead and dying; born and reborn
Between the broken synapses of my brain:
My neural net holds nothing but memories,
Space, and language.
I remember nothing
Between our hands but Coulomb repulsion,
Touching only in the waves where we were one.
Though the night holds simple mysteries,
How I would have held you, Alaska:
Frozen, the way you hold my dreams
In this pretended past we all agree upon:
Truthful darlings that never grow old,
Wrecked upon the rocks of necessary use
Where we wait to recover our petty youth.
Cleaved from the dream of you I remember
Our embrace that meant desired death,
To live suspended by the temptation to be
Immortal in the living words of loved language,
Tongues passed down through book and kiss,
Indelible as pheromones and phonemes.
O you who pass by, bound tight to your mast,
Tell me, on the shore, what have I missed?
Was it impressed in the smeared brass
Of a second line sousaphone, crying I’ll fly away
As the women in tall hats stepped like the dead?
Junked beats once forgotten jazz me into motion
In this sunken city held up by heat and memory,
Preserved by stained statues and cracking cathedrals,
Where black men hawk Heinekens and what never was
Except in realms where parallel lines bend together,
Glowing in planes squared to infinite spheres
Storied shards that build legends from fallen timbers,
Marble graves, and misuse.
I know this music,
Muse, and it uses me too.
Used and quiet on the banks of the river,
I wish this concrete were weathered rocks,
not stones pounded, priced, mixed, and poured.
Would I were crystalline, latticed and strong,
Laced with lovely inconsistencies;
I should not even mind the chisel’s edge
Cleaving mineral children from me,
Strong shards, bathed in this humid state.
But cleave me and I will not facet. I will crumble,
My silicosis sin choking my darlings
Unless by miracle the misaligned stones
Mistaken for bones grow straight within them.
Everything erodes. Nothing is the greatest memory.
I remember Alaska only in dreams.
Rooted in fear I lie on these lines of sand,
Dreaming of everything that can never be,
Praying for the strength to love the things that are,
Knowing everything we are propagates
Within those within us. On the syzygy of memory,
Dream, and reality, I fall.
On beaches I have never been
My dreams grow immense, untenable in their enormity.
This Is Not My Town
Wide streets with no
sidewalks where cars
rip by like there
are no children
in the world. Trees
trimmed for growing
the way trees grow.
Sagging strip malls
and red lights and
is a river.
The river is
a great thing but
for the fact that
we don’t want to
eat from it or
swim in it. The
diesel swill and
concrete banks make
a dip or fish
too hard to get.
So we see the
river through the
grates of bridges.
We have lovely
bridges. Spans of
downtown to make
I wish this were
my town. I was
born here in a
has been renamed.
Or torn down. I
I think it’s the
don’t want to go
I live here. I
moved back here. But
my house is an
this town forgot.
looks like my town.
But there’s nothing
to buy here but
fried fish and crack
and red drink. And
who but me would
else? That’s what the
owners would tell
even if all
folks love good food.
We walk around
the block with the
dogs or play in
granny’s front yard
two houses down.
is my town but
this town is not
my town. Over
part of town that’s
not my town there
are some poets
reading. They talk
about their lives.
No one really
cares because they’ve
got to get up
to work a job
that was once a
but now maybe’s
Or if they are
lucky they work
for the Navy
or the shipyards.
are not at the
And the reading
isn’t where you
would want to go.
Not one of the
nice beer bars or
few dinner clubs.
The food here is
good. But you can’t
eat words and so
no one shares them.
So I sit on
this bench staring
at the river.
I can see a
bridge to my left.
My daughters chase
fiddler crabs on
the concrete shore.
None of this is
mine but now it’s
G.M. Palmer is a professor, musician, and writer living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and daughters on their poodle farm. Called the Lester Bangs of poetry criticism, his poetry and prose can be found at Trop, Tahoma Literary Review, Burlesque Press, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Anti-, Everse Radio, and elsewhere. His first book, With Rough Gods, called essential by Alissa Nutting, is a collection of sonnet-length dramatic monologues spoken by Greek gods and heroes and includes an extensive glossary. It was the first publication by Jagged Door Press, founded by Memphis Grizzlies super-fan Paul Craig. Palmer hosts the political poetry competition and musical nightly gatherings at the West Chester Poetry Conference and is part of their AWP conference team.