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Copyright 2004


Expedient Exaggeration

birthday poem 2007

Ila Faye really did have seven husbands,
all her own, or maybe it was six or five.
Two of them in the hospital at once,
names always the same, so it must be
true. I was never really a cheerleader-
only consistently louder than everybody
except when I bombed scales on the tuba
for the seventh graders, I don't know
if any of them signed up for band
unless they thought- I can do better,
while I whispered to the floor (me, too)
shamed in front of the cute new director.

Why I let a certain kind of person (man)
intimidate me remains a roadblock
to this day. Charlie's influence drives
every relationship right off the berm
stalled mid-sentence, lost in the stars.
Some daddies need to be stood up to.
I still build walls when things change,
grateful for the few who skitter over,
wait for me to calm down, quit fretting,
get past myself. That's my mantra,
or should be, instead of "Sher-ring"
the one picked "especially for me."

It figures that age brings contentment,
some relaxation, a certainty of what works,
what won't, in the face of sagging skin,
bad vision, lousy memory and more,
as the weight of futility becomes beacon,
the unbearable chances for wonderful
catch the last train ( for the coast).
I rock on, wedded to dated metaphors
sure it's been going downhill a long time
before I looked around to find opportunity
came and went while I was drifting
and not even dawn can bring it back.

Shann Palmer , born January 4, 1950


  WRITEsmall  contest (examples)

Since I can't enter my own contest anyway- here's four
WRITEsmall poems from me:
( off the cuff and unedited)

Losing touch implies contact
made proir to right now felt good
when you left wordless saying
more with a cursory kiss than
an unexpected fist instructs
the bone to give, then break.

I may be disappointed everytime
we interact when I perceive you
accumulating dots while I persist
in swallowing the picture whole yet
we're both in the park with George,
& it's Sunday wherever we stand.

You weep on TV unable to grasp
hope's fragile encouragement left
to stare at your hand like a baby
who does not know these fingers
now folded into a fist will learn
day by day to build a life again.

Your work consumes, no- defines 
you dive into the deep end sure 
death is not an option you will 
learn to swim or better be a fish
if you must to make the grade
at least as close as will not
tempt the gods to bring you down.
Shann Palmer
Support Your Local Poets! 

 Shann Palmer's New Book   
Now Available at ART6 SHOP6

In the Ordinary Course of Events

This will be the third year (or is it the 4th?) I have decided to
write a poem every day for the month of April- National Poetry Month. 
I don't revise (until the month is over, then I rip-em-up) but do try
to post a reasonable attempt at a poem each day- Some of the poems
from previous years ended up being published or prize-winners, some
went into permanent storage- try it yourself, if you want- it's fun!

Day 1.

Location Location Location

"The Moon Rose Over an Open Field"
                         from America -Paul Simon

Look between the lines:
7-11's and Walmart, the mall cineplex,
post offices, airports, and the DMV

There's your America: singing, screaming,
slinging insults, buckling under pressure,
holding court in your face, your space,
mocking with a cell phone you can't afford.

More people vote for the latest American Idol 
than for president, opinion polls 
overtake reason, influence congress 
like the Cosa Nostra- This thing of ours,

this freedom of speech.
The rule of law has always left our house
divided. We ignore or vilify what we don't like, 
know what's best for everyone else.
We hold our God self-evident, reverent
only on High Holy Days, if it suits, 
though we quit dressing up years ago.

Still, the universe abides, spring sashays in
I saw a Cardinal fat with promise on my porch,
there are waterbugs around the bathtub,
crickets in my kitchen.

"I'm empty and aching and I don't know why"

These hours are not lost.
Only I am.

Day 6.

Her Apparent

"She used words as if they had no experience."
-Laura Riding Jackson speaking of Gertrude Stein

casual appearance
belies the gravity 
of the afternoon interview

Youth embodies pretense.

What could one encounter mean
in a life's coarse journey? She saw 
scant value in appeasement.

Authority begs lip service.

She would not get the job
though he was caught up in 
asking ridiculous questions
to watch her eyes squinch.

Lobledeedobledobledee was 
what he heard her say.

was his sententious reply.

Day 9.

Tick Tock

Age is when you've met so many people that every 
new person you meet reminds you of someone else.
                                                                       - Ogden Nash

The busboy cleared the table
beside hers, nimbly scooping crumbs
with a soup spoon, stacking dirty dishes
absurdly high. He probably was. 

Frozen in place, fork-full of pasta by her nose, 
She caught a flash of Jake in 
the young man's eyes, the way he moved, 
the color of his skin, hair.

Locked in a snapshot forty years old, 
she wanted to say his name 
out loud right then, hoping.

She'd seen Max last Tuesday, 
and Janet, dead since '83, poor thing, 
and that girl at the curb outside the window 
was spitting image of Lolly. All week long 

faces changed while she watched.
Maybe I'm dying, she thought, and all these 
good souls have come to quell my fears.

She gave her credit card to Syd's boy, Stan,
thanked the hostess, Cousin June, 
and left the cafe. Driving home past the bank 

a big black woman waved, 
wasn't she Grandmama's nurse? 
After a few miles, every face 
was the face of someone gone.
Sitting in the driveway, she wondered 
who was in the house, her daughter or her sister? 
Maybe I'm dead, she said, and left.

Day 10.

Long Term

"I feel better having screamed, don't you?"
                                 - R.E.M. from Ignoreland

I bought myself roses- yellow ones, 
every bloom big as a saucer.

Heavy with color, the petals
dropped with a thud
when they were spent,
All that golden beauty,
done with, never to be put back.

I won't say I've wasted my life on you,
there's been a hot mustard taste 
a curried glance now and then
that became rigid in time, as we set our ways.

How many words do I have left?
More than the saffron boats drifting
in the sweet breeze, more than that. 

if you put an aspirin in the water
cut flowers will stay fresh, last longer-
Works for me. 

Day 14.

What You See

He knows all about art, but he doesn't 
know what he likes.
                                             - James Thurber

They nest in a chi-chi loft
in the soon-to-be-hip art district
not yet safe but no longer slummy
their car sound system had been stolen 
it was all on the surveillance tape
the thief had ample light.

The Wyeth knock-off
hung above their couch
because the colors fit
he'd wanted the Twombly abstract
but she hated it
the negotiation was heated and brief.

She won the lead because she was hot
in black leather and high heels
so what if she sang only passably
danced slightly better
it was a type of casting
neither deplorable nor comfortable.

When she is at rehersal
he stands at the window, perfectly still
watching the tracks
their loft windows overlook
waiting for the train whistle
at 7:52 and 11:17.

Day 15.

The Persistence of Nostalgia 

Do not confine your children to your own learning, 
for they were born in another time.
                                                           -Hebrew Proverb

You are an active verb, 
my daughter, upwardly mobile,
a step ahead of where I think
you should be.

I yearn for what I was,
thought I was, knowing
of all the world before me,
before you.

Even now, you reach beyond
me, out of the frame,
my references unfamiliar,
holding you back.

You flash your peculiar slang
I cling to comfortable words,
we are alike in such discreet ways,
exactly as we should be.

Day 22.


Es tan corto el amor, y tan largo el olvido.
(Love is so short, and forgetting is so long.) 
                                                     -Pablo Neruda

I lose a memory every day:
a ride down Spencer Highway,
firecrackers at the end of the pier,
the polished floors at Snow Hill Farm,
you, finishing my Lo Mein as we lean in 
across the table at the Magic Wok,
the Earth Day celebration where we
had the band on a flatbed truck,
the generator louder than the piano.

Today, I thought I saw you,
or some guy that looked enough
like you to stop my breath 
for that long was all it took-

Kids were passing out pictures 
of endangered species glued onto
popsicle sticks, singing "Baby Beluga"
out of tune. I would've sold the last
Shenandoah Salamander in my hand
(Plethodon shenandoah) for another 
hour with you, hungry, full of talk.

Day 25.

Water Cooler Twaddle 

We are tied down to a language that makes up 
in obscurity what it lacks in style. 
                                                          -Tom Stoppard

Amid the binge and purge of information
- the bane of simple clerks and bosses boon,
I can see the glass is but half-full,
dishwasher-baked lipstick on the rim.

The heroes that are here have been invented;
first in groups, then in archetypical cast
(should that be reversed?) until everyman truly is,
and no one be denied the call.

Privilege and right have become confused 
served by photogenic judges who bench press
themselves before the camera's prying eye, 
with less substance then Titania's perfect ass.

Day 27.

Everything Else 

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, 
you must first create the universe. 
                                                               - Carl Sagan

There are some things I cannot do,
even if I had detailed directions, 
ample materials, and the rest of my life.

A combustion engine. Or an airplane.
Light bulbs, for instance:
I could never make a lightbulb.

I know the smooth curves of the bulb,
its delicate filament inside, perfectly placed.
I can read in the warmth, or sew, or draw.

Left to my inadequate devices, we would fall asleep
at dusk, tired from walking where we needed to go.
Neither genius nor god, I am forced to reliance.

So, I will take your arm in difficult circumstance,
prepare your dinner, wash your clothes. 
Everything else is out of my hands, in yours.

We're out of light bulbs.

Day 29.

Spring, Another 

Make visible what, without you, 
might never have been seen.
-Robert Bresson

The tabby cat gives my leg a brush-by,
I return a sneeze, not because of her, not this time.

Spring has me in its mouth again
pollen in my eyes, dry-throated and dizzy.

I take another shower to get my bearings,
the mirror streaks, drips with yellow steam.

Sleepless nights mean long days of working in a fog.
I smile at strangers, like an old man glad to see anyone.

I long for summer's clarity, grinding heat, 
a season with a better sense of self.

Shann Palmer, 2005 
from her new book 
In the Ordinary Course of Events
find this at Art6 Gallery

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Now Available at ART6 SHOP6

In the Ordinary Course of Events

poems by

Shann Palmer

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