Who Is to Say

Who is to say
that the House of Tongues is not that place 
where rats swarm around your feet 
under blooming sofas

is not that place
of poisoned snows, pens run dry 
and secrets now too late to know 
and certainly the murmuring there below

was a mur-  was a mur-  was a 
murmuring almost to be heard 
a bubbling like water 
invisible, underneath

And look the shadow of a wing 
does fall here as blood 
does drink deeply of itself 
and does whisper yes for no

Once these faces behind glass 
might have returned your glance 
might even have gathered up 
their limbs, in order to stand

Who is to say
that certain of their words did not spill out 
as far as the eyes of cats could see 
across the river in the dark

                             15 sept 90

From "Three Russian Songs" in At Passages, published by New Directions, 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Michael Palmer. Reprinted with permission.