William Palmer


My life has involved common male issues: how to be strong, how to be first, how to be powerful. But my work usually explores some dialectic in these: how to be gentle, how to be humble, how to be powerless. Male issues have often caused pain for me. The older I get, the more I try to be the best human I can be, the most kind and loving. My poetry reflects, I hope, more awareness of spirit and less preoccupation with being male.




We rode that day
on our Stingrays with long banana seats.
We steered high handlebars

through unfamiliar streets
and rounded a corner
where a small boy played

at the side of a house.
I looked at him and said nigger.
His face fell.

I thought my dad would be proud.
My friend looked away.
I wanted to circle

that block again
take back that word
and bury it

like the sparrow I had shot in the birch tree
outside my bedroom window
with a single copper bb.

That small bird fell straight down
and I felt
its muffled thump.

I ran downstairs
and out the door
and cupped it in my hands.

How many more times
did it take
before I learned?




William Palmer teaches English at Alma College in central Michigan. His poetry and prose have appeared in Bellingham Review, Oranges & Sardines, and The Christian Science Monitor. His chapbook A String of Blue Lights was published by Pudding House in 2007. Grace Cavalieri interviewed him for her public radio show The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress in 2005.