from Michael Palmer vs. Michael Palmer

Michael Leong

Nattie had begun to cough tiny droplets of shadow and light. Her womb was a six-inch veil, a drowning skiff jolted by destiny. For a few, empty seconds, a palinode had instinctively materialized between her shoulder blades.

"Damn," she muttered, her hot saliva drifting down in clouds of color and black and white.

"Nattie, are you okay?" Peggy pressed her tough mouth over Nattie's throat. Her blurred wing echoed immediately. Beneath her apron, a glass canticle prepared to embark on the dry waters of nothing.

"I'm...I'm fine," she managed. "It's just time winking in a childless sea, the future-past desperately afloat on the nails of past warning, or piercing eyes regaining a stronger equilibrium in front of the burning shadow-play. They always say there are things emerging from questions unasked, perhaps something begun that no one has yet seen."

Leaves of brilliant color fell from the tower and filled the still contents of her brain. A moment later, Eli, the obstetrician, sprayed a late November hawthorn with penicillin, enough to raise remnants of the four-year-old infection from the cold coals of Wednesday. Despite the sexual ache of the telephone's ring, Nattie was too sad to remain. She drove a gilded spike against the left side of the evidence as one who came to hack the orange shadow of a miracle. Across the room, the Supervisor eyed her without concern. (She was choking on forty black and white pages, a vicious wind emerging from her mouth.) The headache actually forced her dearest thoughts into an unfocused stanza, waiting to scatter them about the torn studio and then gather them up again.

She was forced to play something on the organ, her hands at once fixed and in motion. It was first light. Nattie had lost all of her family — Harold, even her adorable sisters. She had given up. Twice, she felt a sharp jab but there was no one. Then she stumbled back into a photograph — and caught herself — before a horrible aleph smiled at her and slid beyond the edge of the painter's frame.

[Note: This text is a mash-up of Company of Moths (2005), the tenth book by Michael Palmer, the poet, and Fatal (2002), the tenth medical thriller by Michael Palmer, the novelist. No Michaels were harmed during the making of this composition.]

Michael Leong is the author of two books of poetry:
e.s.p. (Silenced Press, 2009) and Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions / The Brooklyn Rail, forthcoming). His translation of the Chilean poet Estela Lamat, I, the Worst of All, was published by BlazeVOX [books] in 2009, and his chapbook of N + 7 poems, The Great Archivist's / Cloudy Quotient, was published on-line in 2010 by Beard of Bees Press. He lives in New York City but can be found online at and