Michael Palmer

Since You Asked

Yes, it’s true, that snow
is often likened to poetry, slant
winds are likened to poetry,
sickle moons, violent crime — only

the most violent of crimes — as well.
Music is absolved of poetry,
war in love with poetry.
(All war thinks it’s poetry.)

The ministers of Birkenau
recited poetry
to their wee bairns at night,
curled in their beds

like lullabies
and preparing to dream
of snow and more snow.
The Caesars sowed blood

wherever they showed up
and called it poetry.
The executioner’s song
is a form of poetry,

one that will outlast poetry,
for so it is sung.
The tides of the Thames
cough up ancient coins,

condoms, daggers and clay pipes,
but never poetry,
because such things are poetry itself.
And those sharpened spikes

tipped with curare
exist on the spines of books
to protect you from poetry
since you asked.

But since you did ask,
there is no protection
from poetry,
not even this.



I am a young man
who once starred in a film
when I was old, quite old,
or so I’m told. 
Let’s call it La Strada
whatever that may mean.
It snowed while we were filming,
I remember that, flakes
of paper-ice falling from the sky,
special effects perhaps,
with a message on each.
read one in caps,
though the ink had begun to run.
You were the love of my life
for a while, read another, unsigned.
Words were the death of me,
so another, signed Jack.
May you live in interesting times,
this curse, so familiar,
from Anonymous.
Or let’s call it Teorema,
whatever that may mean.
Is the fucking in it
only a game of the gods
as it seems?
Or Solaris, an endless journey
half blinding me.
Or Day for Night, Mystery
Train, Imitation of Life,
Vagabond, Notte di Cabiria,
La Jetée, whatever
such words may mean.
Bicycle Thieves made me weep
and haunts me still
since I was in that film as well,
my father beside me in the dark.
So, what of this city of the future-past,
its afterlives and flickering lights
we inhabit so unknowingly
along the way?
I cannot ask.

for Siri and Paul,
in the dark

My Tetralogy

I have completed my tetralogy.
It took me four weeks and a day,
or was it four days and an hour,
four minutes and a glimpse?
Regardless, it took time, took a while.
The heavens opened, the heavens closed.
The tip of my pen sprouted a flower,
though maybe not, probably not.
The Damascene visited me right here
and so too the Angel of the Caucasus
offering her glistening store
of strawberries and honey,
mountain honey, wild and dark,
and so too her enigmatic smile.
And so too the wolf from the world’s edge
who pronounced himself
the last of his kind,
and whose laughter had been learned
from Zoroaster. (All a joke
insisted the Master.) Regardless, it took time,
took a while, to see the hours
as they actually are,
to see the seas silently rising
and the fires responding
to the hours as they actually are.

Poet, editor, and translator, Michael Palmer is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Laughter of the Sphinx (New Directions, 2016), Thread (New Directions, 2011), Company of Moths (New Directions, 2005), and The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems: 1972-1995 (New Directions, 1998).  His most recent publications are a new edition of The Danish Notebook (Nightboat Books, 2023) and the poetry collection Little Elegies for Sister Satan (New Directions, 2021). He lives in San Francisco.

Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.