Bedside

William Olsen

 
Because it turns out the world really is a hospital,
Because we had to have had before us a giant pair of scissors
Before four bold wings can have newly ascended,
Before new doors can revolve, before new elevators
Rise and fall empty and full, new numbers light,
New floors with new doors both open and closed
Because there are nurses to sail in and out of need,
Because need walks the doctors somewhere or another,
Because of elaborately adaptable need the bed . . .
The bed could be wheeled right into traffic and snow
Because so far there is only inside and outside
And more of both than even creation could have concocted,
Because the bed that bore us all and our desires
And our exhaustions has become a contraption,
Because the bed that keeps us coming back to it,
The bed that once sailed to the ends of the earth—
Now tied to trees dripping blood and sugar and sleep,
Anchored where overhead a TV persists, such news
As snows poor reception—because the reliable bed
Is something even a family understands, the family
Is how the world goes—a fool's dream of awareness—
Grouped around this steel altar at its least and lowered
Because the bed is a helpless, blameless invention,
All the same to it if it is made or not, empty or not,
Same fatiguing last probabilities, because there are
As many ways to die as people to find these ways
Because there surely are, because the tried is ever new,
Who can't lose their way anew among so many alive?
Because who hasn't made their own bed, because
Who hasn't slept who hasn't been led by night there,
My mother's hands playing the fabric of the spread
As if it were a piano, tongue-tied, isolate fingers,
She's ghost-smoking, working on an invisible crochet
"Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate . . .  I want to die"—
"Wake up!" Machado said the Gospels reduced to
But not now, not until you have what you want—
Any belief in love itself is what I'd have you want—
Look me in the eye with that sort of love that looks
Through me as if grief were so much tissue paper,
With a love that doesn't stop with me or you, that
Doesn't stop when there's no more world to fear
Because there is no need to wheel the bed outside,
Because a hospital melts like a snowflake, because
The walls and windows and even the bed liquify,
Even the things she's seen that aren't there vanish
Because how much energy there is in emptiness,
Take everything away, there's still something there.
 
From Avenue of Vanishing by William Olsen. Copyright © 2007 by William Olsen. Published 2007 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. Used with permission.

Further Reading

Dreams
Monna Innominata [I dream of you, to wake]
by Christina Rossetti
The Book of a Thousand Eyes [A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding]
by Lyn Hejinian
A Bedtime Story For Mr. Lamb
by Arthur Nevis
A Book Said Dream and I Do
by Barbara Ras
A Dream Within a Dream
by Edgar Allan Poe
Counting
by Douglas Goetsch
Cradle Song
by William Blake
Darkness
by George Gordon Byron
Dear Tiara
by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dream In Which I Meet Myself
by Lynn Emanuel
Dream of the Evil Servant
by Reetika Vazirani
Dream Song 1
by John Berryman
Dream Variations
by Langston Hughes
Dreaming About My Father
by Ed Ochester
Flying
by Sarah Arvio
Grasshopper
by Ron Padgett
He Dreams of Falling
by Ruth Ellen Kocher
His Heart
by Caroline Knox
I am Like a Desert Owl, an Owl Among the Ruins
by Noelle Kocot
I Might Have Dreamed This
by Kirsten Dierking
it was a dream
by Lucille Clifton
Japanese Lullaby
by Eugene Field
Joyride
by Ana Božičević
Kristin's Dream In November
by Bernadette Mayer
Last
by Maxine Scates
Lullaby of an Infant Chief
by Sir Walter Scott
Making the Bed
by Burt Kimmelman
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
Nocturne
by Wayne Miller
O Little Root of a Dream
by Paul Celan
Our eunuch dreams
by Dylan Thomas
Prologue of the Earthly Paradise
by William Morris
Raven's Last Dream
by Red Hawk
Scarecrow on Fire
by Dean Young
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
The Dream of the Just
by Dana Gelinas
The Dreamer
by Djuna Barnes
The Good-Morrow
by John Donne
The House
by Richard Wilbur
The Land of Nod
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Republic of Dreams
by Michael Palmer
The Sandman
by Margaret Thomson Janvier
The Sleepers
by Walt Whitman
The Song in the Dream
by Saskia Hamilton
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
Variation on the Word Sleep
by Margaret Atwood
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field
Poems About Illness
Kaddish, Part I
by Allen Ginsberg
A Litany in Time of Plague
by Thomas Nashe
Afternoon at MacDowell
by Jane Kenyon
Against Elegies
by Marilyn Hacker
Anxieties
by Donna Masini
Auld Lang Syne
by Jennifer L. Knox
Beasts
by Carmen Giménez Smith
Breathing
by Josephine Dickinson
Christmas Away from Home
by Jane Kenyon
Cognitive Deficit Market
by Joshua Corey
Evening
by Gail Mazur
Everyone Gasps with Anxiety
by Jeni Olin
Having it Out with Melancholy
by Jane Kenyon
Her Body Like a Lantern Next to Me
by John Rybicki
Hospital Writing Workshop
by Rafael Campo
In Memory of W. B. Yeats
by W. H. Auden
Losing It
by Margaret Gibson
Mastectomy
by Wanda Coleman
Phases
by Michael Redhill
Prayer for Sleep
by Cheryl Dumesnil
R.I.P., My Love
by Tory Dent
Sick
by Shel Silverstein
The Embrace
by Mark Doty
The Land of Counterpane
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Nurse
by Michael Blumenthal
The Sick Child
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sick Rose
by William Blake
The Subalterns
by Thomas Hardy
The Transparent Man
by Anthony Hecht
The Visit
by Jason Shinder
To Amy Lowell
by Eunice Tietjens
Tubes
by Donald Hall
Units
by Albert Goldbarth
Visits to St. Elizabeths
by Elizabeth Bishop
Waking in the Blue
by Robert Lowell
When I Consider How My Light Is Spent
by John Milton