In her own words...

"No Palms"


No palms dolled up the tedium, no breathing wind.
No problem was the buzzword then, their way to go.

In truth, my case was black as sin, a thing to hide,
In that they feigned to find me sane, so not to know.

Someone brought in a medium. Anathema!
Some clown sewed up my eyes, he said it wouldn't show.

Confusing hands with craze, they howled, "Let's cut them off."
Confusing, too, their spies, my lies without an echo.

Time and again they stitched my mind with warp and woof.
Time pounded in my ruby heart, doing a slow,

Slow dim-out in that lupanar, slow take, slow fade,
Slow yawning like a door. "Hello," I said. "HELLO."

There, flung across the room between inside and out,
There must have shown itself to me ... an afterglow.

With such a blaze to celebrate where centuries meet
With time itself, how could I hesitate? Although

Still trapped in the millennium I knew I had
Still time to blow some kisses. Look up, there they go!


About this work

“No Palms” was first published in The Yale Review, Vol. 87, no. 3 (July 1999), p. 21, and was included in The Best American Poetry 2000, Rita Dove and David Lehman, eds., New York: Scribner, 2000, p. 179.  It is also included in Dorothea Tanning's book, A Table of Content: Poems, New York: Graywolf Press, 2004, p. 37, and may not be reprinted without the publisher's permission.

Jane Kramer:   When I asked Tanning how she wrote her poems, she said, "Well, sometimes an idea keeps rolling around in your head, or a pair of words, but you really don't know what it is.  It has to emerge.  My poem 'No Palms' is such a poem.  We were on our trip through the desert.  We passed a town called Twentynine Palms.  We drove on, and finally we came to a gas station and a little cabin behind it and a sign—one of those official blue-and-white signs of a California town—that said, 'No Palms. Population 3.'  For a long time, those were the words in my head: 'no palms.' Fifty years later, I wrote the poem."  She told me how sorry she was "for all the young poets who have to keep looking 'inside' for themselves. I won't say old age is a global message.  But it's given me plenty of material."
     –from “Self Inventions: Dorothea Tanning, Painter Turned Poet,” The New Yorker, May 3, 2004, p. 60.