There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers. There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light. The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings, stiller than the stare of a hooded falcon. But no falcons in this green made by the passage of parents. No, not parents, parrots flying through slow sleep casting green rays to light the long dream. If skin, dew would have drenched it, but dust hung in space like the stoppage of time itself, which, after dancing with parrots, had said, Thank you. I'll rest now. It's not too late to say the parrot light was thick enough to part with a hand, and the feathers softening the path, fallen after so much touching of cheeks, were red, hibiscus red split by veins of flight now at the end of flying. Despite the halt of time, the feathers trusted red and believed indolence would fill the long dream, until the book shut and time began again to hurt.
"To Sleep, Perchance to Dream"
Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, Thus much let me avow: You are not wrong who deem That my days have been a dream; Yet if hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream. I stand amid the roar Of a surf-tormented shore, And I hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand-- How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep--while I weep! O God! can I not grasp Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream?
O, hush thee, my babie, thy sire was a knight, Thy mother a lady, both lovely and bright; The woods and the glens, from the towers which we see, They are all belonging, dear babie, to thee. O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo. O, fear not the bugle, though loudly it blows, It calls but the warders that guard thy repose; Their bows would be bended, their blades would be red, Ere the step of a foeman draws near to thy bed. O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo. O, hush thee, my babie, the time soon will come, When thy sleep shall be broken by trumpet and drum; Then hush thee, my darling, take rest while you may, For strife comes with manhood, and waking with day. O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo.
Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm; Time and fevers burn away Individual beauty from Thoughtful children, and the grave Proves the child ephemeral: But in my arms till break of day Let the living creature lie, Mortal, guilty, but to me The entirely beautiful. Soul and body have no bounds: To lovers as they lie upon Her tolerant enchanted slope In their ordinary swoon, Grave the vision Venus sends Of supernatural sympathy, Universal love and hope; While an abstract insight wakes Among the glaciers and the rocks The hermit's carnal ecstasy. Certainty, fidelity On the stroke of midnight pass Like vibrations of a bell, And fashionable madmen raise Their pedantic boring cry: Every farthing of the cost, All the dreaded cards foretell, Shall be paid, but from this night Not a whisper, not a thought, Not a kiss nor look be lost. Beauty, midnight, vision dies: Let the winds of dawn that blow Softly round your dreaming head Such a day of welcome show Eye and knocking heart may bless, Find the mortal world enough; Noons of dryness find you fed By the involuntary powers, Nights of insult let you pass Watched by every human love.
Sleep, little pigeon, and fold your wings,— Little blue pigeon with velvet eyes; Sleep to the singing of mother-bird swinging— Swinging the nest where her little one lies. Away out yonder I see a star,— Silvery star with a tinkling song; To the soft dew falling I hear it calling— Calling and tinkling the night along. In through the window a moonbeam comes,— Little gold moonbeam with misty wings; All silently creeping, it asks, "Is he sleeping— Sleeping and dreaming while mother sings?" Up from the sea there floats the sob Of the waves that are breaking upon the shore, As though they were groaning in anguish, and moaning— Bemoaning the ship that shall come no more. But sleep, little pigeon, and fold your wings,— Little blue pigeon with mournful eyes; Am I not singing?—see, I am swinging— Swinging the nest where my darling lies.
Dreams draw near at dawn and then recede even if you beckon them. They loom like demons you tug by the tail to examine from up close and then let fly away. Their colors at once brighter and less bright than you remembered, they hover and insinuate all day at the corner of your eye.
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night Sailed off in a wooden shoe,— Sailed on a river of crystal light Into a sea of dew. "Where are you going, and what do you wish?" The old moon asked the three. "We have come to fish for the herring-fish That live in this beautiful sea; Nets of silver and gold have we," Said Wynken, Blynken, And Nod. The old moon laughed and sang a song, As they rocked in the wooden shoe; And the wind that sped them all night long Ruffled the waves of dew; The little stars were the herring-fish That lived in the beautiful sea. "Now cast your nets wherever you wish,— Never afraid are we!" So cried the stars to the fishermen three, Wynken, Blynken, And Nod. All night long their nets they threw To the stars in the twinkling foam,— Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe, Bringing the fishermen home: 'Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed As if it could not be; And some folk thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed Of sailing that beautiful sea; But I shall name you the fishermen three: Wynken, Blynken, And Nod. Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes, And Nod is a little head, And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies Is a wee one's trundle-bed; So shut your eyes while Mother sings Of wonderful sights that be, And you shall see the beautiful things As you rock in the misty sea Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:— Wynken, Blynken, And Nod.
Sleep, sleep, beauty bright, Dreaming in the joys of night; Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep Little sorrows sit and weep. Sweet babe, in thy face Soft desires I can trace, Secret joys and secret smiles, Little pretty infant wiles. As thy softest limbs I feel Smiles as of the morning steal O'er thy cheek, and o'er thy breast Where thy little heart doth rest. O the cunning wiles that creep In thy little heart asleep! When thy little heart doth wake, Then the dreadful night shall break.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air; Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day, And men forgot their passions in the dread Of this their desolation; and all hearts Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light: And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones, The palaces of crowned kings—the huts, The habitations of all things which dwell, Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd, And men were gather'd round their blazing homes To look once more into each other's face; Happy were those who dwelt within the eye Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch: A fearful hope was all the world contain'd; Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks Extinguish'd with a crash—and all was black. The brows of men by the despairing light Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits The flashes fell upon them; some lay down And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd; And others hurried to and fro, and fed Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up With mad disquietude on the dull sky, The pall of a past world; and then again With curses cast them down upon the dust, And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd And, terrified, did flutter on the ground, And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd And twin'd themselves among the multitude, Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food. And War, which for a moment was no more, Did glut himself again: a meal was bought With blood, and each sate sullenly apart Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left; All earth was but one thought—and that was death Immediate and inglorious; and the pang Of famine fed upon all entrails—men Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh; The meagre by the meagre were devour'd, Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one, And he was faithful to a corse, and kept The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay, Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, But with a piteous and perpetual moan, And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand Which answer'd not with a caress—he died. The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two Of an enormous city did survive, And they were enemies: they met beside The dying embers of an altar-place Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things For an unholy usage; they rak'd up, And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath Blew for a little life, and made a flame Which was a mockery; then they lifted up Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld Each other's aspects—saw, and shriek'd, and died— Even of their mutual hideousness they died, Unknowing who he was upon whose brow Famine had written Fiend. The world was void, The populous and the powerful was a lump, Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless— A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay. The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still, And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths; Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea, And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd They slept on the abyss without a surge— The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave, The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before; The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air, And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need Of aid from them—She was the Universe.
It's funny when the mind thinks about the psyche, as if a grasshopper could ponder a helicopter. It's a bad idea to fall asleep while flying a helicopter: when you wake up, the helicopter is gone and you are too, left behind in a dream, and there is no way to catch up, for catching up doesn't figure in the scheme of things. You are who you are, right now, and the mind is so scared it closes its eyes and then forgets it has eyes and the grasshopper, the one that thinks you're a helicopter, leaps onto your back! He is a brave little grasshopper and he never sleeps for the poem he writes is the act of always being awake, better than anything you could ever write or do. Then he springs away.
O little root of a dream you hold me here undermined by blood, no longer visible to anyone, property of death. Curve a face that there may be speech, of earth, of ardor, of things with eyes, even here, where you read me blind, even here, where you refute me, to the letter.
Raven was in a deep sleep, dreaming the world. He saw things and they happened, He dreamed things and they came to life. He hardly knew where to begin or what to do once the world was. At last He understood Fodder's dilemma. It troubled Him, made Him restless, disturbed His sleep. Then the terrible thing happened: He had a thought. Everything dream? He wonder. Then the worst thing happened: He had another thought, one thought following the other. Who dreaming Raven? He wonder and this woke Him up. He looked up, He looked down, He looked all around. Don't know, He say and He couldn't get back to sleep.
You know what I mean: In the instant of waking in bliss, the whole body smiles— He's still alive—She came back—They didn't mean it— We forgive and are forgiven—It all turned out— And then the hand claws the duvet, seized by the real, as all that's warm just drops. I know you know. But I seek a potion to make me dream of the actual with the same fervor, so I'll wake to happy facts: It's spring! It's raining! Robins! Someone will return a phone call today! My son has watched the clock and let me nap for 35 minutes!— and does not notice my face smacked wet by the snap of the delusion, unmatched in sweetness, that you promised to hold me always.
The song itself had hinges. The clasp on the eighteenth-century Bible had hinges, which creaked; when you released the catch, the book would sigh and expand. The song was of two wholes joined by hinges, and I was worried about the joining, the spaces in between the joints, the weight of each side straining them.
Everyone is asleep There is nothing to come between The moon and me.
Once in a cradle in Norway folded like Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir as a ship in full sail transported the dead to Valhalla Once on a mountain in Taos after making love in my thirties the decade of turquoise and silver After your brother walked into the Atlantic to scatter your mothers ashes his khakis soaked to the knees his shirtsleeves blowing At the top of the cottage in a thunderstorm once or twice each summer covetous of my solitude Immediately following lunch against circadian rhythms, once in a bunk bed in a dormitory in the White Mountains Once in a hollow tree in Wyoming A snow squall blew in the guide said tie up your horses The last night in the Katmandu guest house where I saw a bird fly from a monk's mouth a consolidated sleep of East and West Once on a horsehair mattress two feet thick I woke up singing as in the apocryphal story of my birth at Temple University Hospital On the mesa with the burrowing owls on the mesa with the prairie dogs Willing to be lucky I ran the perimeter road in my sleep entrained to the cycles of light and dark Sometimes my dead sister visited my dreams Once on the beach in New Jersey after the turtles deposited their eggs before my parents grew old, nocturnal
Then out of the darkness leapt a bare hand that stroked my brow, "Come along, child; stretch out your feet under the blanket. Darkness will give you back, unremembering. Do not be afraid." So I put down my book and pushed like a finger through sheer silk, the autobiographical part of me, the am, snatched up to a different place, where I was no longer my body but something more— the compulsive, disorderly parts of me in a state of equalization, everything sliding off: war, love, suicide, poverty—as the rebellious, mortal, I, I, I lay, like a beetle irrigating a rose, my red thoughts in a red shade all I was.
1 I wander all night in my vision, Stepping with light feet, swiftly and noiselessly stepping and stopping, Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers, Wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted, contradictory, Pausing, gazing, bending, and stopping. How solemn they look there, stretch'd and still, How quiet they breathe, the little children in their cradles. The wretched features of ennuyes, the white features of corpses, the livid faces of drunkards, the sick-gray faces of onanists, The gash'd bodies on battle-fields, the insane in their strong-door'd rooms, the sacred idiots, the new-born emerging from gates, and the dying emerging from gates, The night pervades them and infolds them. The married couple sleep calmly in their bed, he with his palm on the hip of the wife, and she with her palm on the hip of the husband, The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their bed, The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs, And the mother sleeps with her little child carefully wrapt. The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep, The prisoner sleeps well in the prison, the runaway son sleeps, The murderer that is to be hung next day, how does he sleep? And the murder'd person, how does he sleep? The female that loves unrequited sleeps, And the male that loves unrequited sleeps, The head of the money-maker that plotted all day sleeps, And the enraged and treacherous dispositions, all, all sleep. I stand in the dark with drooping eyes by the worst-suffering and the most restless, I pass my hands soothingly to and fro a few inches from them, The restless sink in their beds, they fitfully sleep. Now I pierce the darkness, new beings appear, The earth recedes from me into the night, I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the earth is beautiful. I go from bedside to bedside, I sleep close with the other sleepers each in turn, I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers, And I become the other dreamers. I am a dance--play up there! the fit is whirling me fast! I am the ever-laughing--it is new moon and twilight, I see the hiding of douceurs, I see nimble ghosts whichever way look, Cache and cache again deep in the ground and sea, and where it is neither ground nor sea. Well do they do their jobs those journeymen divine, Only from me can they hide nothing, and would not if they could, I reckon I am their boss and they make me a pet besides, And surround me and lead me and run ahead when I walk, To lift their cunning covers to signify me with stretch'd arms, and resume the way; Onward we move, a gay gang of blackguards! with mirth-shouting music and wild-flapping pennants of joy! I am the actor, the actress, the voter, the politician, The emigrant and the exile, the criminal that stood in the box, He who has been famous and he who shall be famous after to-day, The stammerer, the well-form'd person, the wasted or feeble person. I am she who adorn'd herself and folded her hair expectantly, My truant lover has come, and it is dark. Double yourself and receive me darkness, Receive me and my lover too, he will not let me go without him. I roll myself upon you as upon a bed, I resign myself to the dusk. He whom I call answers me and takes the place of my lover, He rises with me silently from the bed. Darkness, you are gentler than my lover, his flesh was sweaty and panting, I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me. My hands are spread forth, I pass them in all directions, I would sound up the shadowy shore to which you are journeying. Be careful darkness! already what was it touch'd me? I thought my lover had gone, else darkness and he are one, I hear the heart-beat, I follow, I fade away. 2 I descend my western course, my sinews are flaccid, Perfume and youth course through me and I am their wake. It is my face yellow and wrinkled instead of the old woman's, I sit low in a straw-bottom chair and carefully darn my grandson's stockings. It is I too, the sleepless widow looking out on the winter midnight, I see the sparkles of starshine on the icy and pallid earth. A shroud I see and I am the shroud, I wrap a body and lie in the coffin, It is dark here under ground, it is not evil or pain here, it is blank here, for reasons. (It seems to me that every thing in the light and air ought to be happy, Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave let him know he has enough.) 3 I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked through the eddies of the sea, His brown hair lies close and even to his head, he strikes out with courageous arms, he urges himself with his legs, I see his white body, I see his undaunted eyes, I hate the swift-running eddies that would dash him head-foremost on the rocks. What are you doing you ruffianly red-trickled waves? Will you kill the courageous giant? will you kill him in the prime of his middle age? Steady and long he struggles, He is baffled, bang'd, bruis'd, he holds out while his strength holds out, The slapping eddies are spotted with his blood, they bear him away, they roll him, swing him, turn him, His beautiful body is borne in the circling eddies, it is continually bruis'd on rocks, Swiftly and ought of sight is borne the brave corpse. 4 I turn but do not extricate myself, Confused, a past-reading, another, but with darkness yet. The beach is cut by the razory ice-wind, the wreck-guns sound, The tempest lulls, the moon comes floundering through the drifts. I look where the ship helplessly heads end on, I hear the burst as she strikes, I hear the howls of dismay, they grow fainter and fainter. I cannot aid with my wringing fingers, I can but rush to the surf and let it drench me and freeze upon me. I search with the crowd, not one of the company is wash'd to us alive, In the morning I help pick up the dead and lay them in rows in a barn. 5 Now of the older war-days, the defeat at Brooklyn, Washington stands inside the lines, he stands on the intrench'd hills amid a crowd of officers. His face is cold and damp, he cannot repress the weeping drops, He lifts the glass perpetually to his eyes, the color is blanch'd from his cheeks, He sees the slaughter of the southern braves confided to him by their parents. The same at last and at last when peace is declared, He stands in the room of the old tavern, the well-belov'd soldiers all pass through, The officers speechless and slow draw near in their turns, The chief encircles their necks with his arm and kisses them on the cheek, He kisses lightly the wet cheeks one after another, he shakes hands and bids good-by to the army. 6 Now what my mother told me one day as we sat at dinner together, Of when she was a nearly grown girl living home with her parents on the old homestead. A red squaw came one breakfast-time to the old homestead, On her back she carried a bundle of rushes for rush-bottoming chairs, Her hair, straight, shiny, coarse, black, profuse, half-envelop'd her face, Her step was free and elastic, and her voice sounded exquisitely as she spoke. My mother look'd in delight and amazement at the stranger, She look'd at the freshness of her tall-borne face and full and pliant limbs, The more she look'd upon her she loved her, Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty and purity, She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the fireplace, she cook'd food for her, She had no work to give her, but she gave her remembrance and fondness. The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward the middle of the afternoon she went away, O my mother was loth to have her go away, All the week she thought of her, she watch'd for her many a month, She remember'd her many a winter and many a summer, But the red squaw never came nor was heard of there again. 7 A show of the summer softness--a contact of something unseen--an amour of the light and air, I am jealous and overwhelm'd with friendliness, And will go gallivant with the light and air myself. O love and summer, you are in the dreams and in me, Autumn and winter are in the dreams, the farmer goes with his thrift, The droves and crops increase, the barns are well-fill'd. Elements merge in the night, ships make tacks in the dreams, The sailor sails, the exile returns home, The fugitive returns unharm'd, the immigrant is back beyond months and years, The poor Irishman lives in the simple house of his childhood with the well known neighbors and faces, They warmly welcome him, he is barefoot again, he forgets he is well off, The Dutchman voyages home, and the Scotchman and Welshman voyage home, and the native of the Mediterranean voyages home, To every port of England, France, Spain, enter well-fill'd ships, The Swiss foots it toward his hills, the Prussian goes his way, the Hungarian his way, and the Pole his way, The Swede returns, and the Dane and Norwegian return. The homeward bound and the outward bound, The beautiful lost swimmer, the ennuye, the onanist, the female that loves unrequited, the money-maker, The actor and actress, those through with their parts and those waiting to commence, The affectionate boy, the husband and wife, the voter, the nominee that is chosen and the nominee that has fail'd, The great already known and the great any time after to-day, The stammerer, the sick, the perfect-form'd, the homely, The criminal that stood in the box, the judge that sat and sentenced him, the fluent lawyers, the jury, the audience, The laugher and weeper, the dancer, the midnight widow, the red squaw, The consumptive, the erysipalite, the idiot, he that is wrong'd, The antipodes, and every one between this and them in the dark, I swear they are averaged now--one is no better than the other, The night and sleep have liken'd them and restored them. I swear they are all beautiful, Every one that sleeps is beautiful, every thing in the dim light is beautiful, The wildest and bloodiest is over, and all is peace. Peace is always beautiful, The myth of heaven indicates peace and night. The myth of heaven indicates the soul, The soul is always beautiful, it appears more or it appears less, it comes or it lags behind, It comes from its embower'd garden and looks pleasantly on itself and encloses the world, Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting,and perfect and clean the womb cohering, The head well-grown proportion'd and plumb, and the bowels and joints proportion'd and plumb. The soul is always beautiful, The universe is duly in order, every thing is in its place, What has arrived is in its place and what waits shall be in its place, The twisted skull waits, the watery or rotten blood waits, The child of the glutton or venerealee waits long, and the child of the drunkard waits long, and the drunkard himself waits long, The sleepers that lived and died wait, the far advanced are to go on in their turns, and the far behind are to come on in their turns, The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow and unite-- they unite now. 8 The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie unclothed, They flow hand in hand over the whole earth from east to west as they lie unclothed, The Asiatic and African are hand in hand, the European and American are hand in hand, Learn'd and unlearn'd are hand in hand, and male and female are hand in hand, The bare arm of the girl crosses the bare breast of her lover, they press close without lust, his lips press her neck, The father holds his grown or ungrown son in his arms with measureless love, and the son holds the father in his arms with measureless love, The white hair of the mother shines on the white wrist of the daughter, The breath of the boy goes with the breath of the man, friend is inarm'd by friend, The scholar kisses the teacher and the teacher kisses the scholar, the wrong 'd made right, The call of the slave is one with the master's call, and the master salutes the slave, The felon steps forth from the prison, the insane becomes sane, the suffering of sick persons is reliev'd, The sweatings and fevers stop, the throat that was unsound is sound, the lungs of the consumptive are resumed, the poor distress'd head is free, The joints of the rheumatic move as smoothly as ever, and smoother than ever, Stiflings and passages open, the paralyzed become supple, The swell'd and convuls'd and congested awake to themselves in condition, They pass the invigoration of the night and the chemistry of the night, and awake. I too pass from the night, I stay a while away O night, but I return to you again and love you. Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you? I am not afraid, I have been well brought forward by you, I love the rich running day, but I do not desert her in whom I lay so long, I know not how I came of you and I know not where I go with you, but I know I came well and shall go well. I will stop only a time with the night, and rise betimes, I will duly pass the day O my mother, and duly return to you.
In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is asleep. The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins. The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream, and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars. Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is asleep. In a graveyard far off there is a corpse who has moaned for three years because of a dry countryside on his knee; and that boy they buried this morning cried so much it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet. Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful! We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias. But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist; flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths in a thicket of new veins, and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders. One day the horses will live in the saloons and the enraged ants will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows. Another day we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue. Careful! Be careful! Be careful! The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm, and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge, or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe, we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting, where the bear's teeth are waiting, where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting, and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder. Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is sleeping. If someone does close his eyes, a whip, boys, a whip! Let there be a landscape of open eyes and bitter wounds on fire. No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one. I have said it before. No one is sleeping. But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night, open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.
To Sleep I give my powers away; My will is bondsman to the dark; I sit within a helmless bark, And with my heart I muse and say: O heart, how fares it with thee now, That thou should fail from thy desire, Who scarcely darest to inquire, "What is it makes me beat so low?" Something it is which thou hast lost, Some pleasure from thine early years. Break thou deep vase of chilling tears, That grief hath shaken into frost! Such clouds of nameless trouble cross All night below the darkened eyes; With morning wakes the will, and cries, "Thou shalt not be the fool of loss."
Poem by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Illustration by Kiki Smith
Working backward in sleep, the
last thing you numbed to is what
What if that image were Eros as
What would it be like if you
contemplated my words and I felt
Animals, an owl, frog, open their
eyes, and a mirror forms on the
When insight comes in a dream,
and events the next day
illuminate it, this begins your
synchronicity, asymptotic lines
of the flights of concordances.
An owl opens its eyes in deep
For the first time, I write and you
don't know me.
Milkweed I touch floats.
Last night I dreamed of chickens, there were chickens everywhere, they were standing on my stomach, they were nesting in my hair, they were pecking at my pillow, they were hopping on my head, they were ruffling up their feathers as they raced about my bed. They were on the chairs and tables, they were on the chandeliers, they were roosting in the corners, they were clucking in my ears, there were chickens, chickens, chickens for as far as I could see... when I woke today, I noticed there were eggs on top of me.
bed calls. i sit in the dark in the living room trying to ignore them in the morning, especially Sunday mornings it will not let me up. you must sleep longer, it says facing south the bed makes me lay heavenward on my back while i prefer a westerly fetal position facing the wall the bed sucks me sideways into it when i sit down on it to put on my shoes. this persistence on its part forces me to dress in the bathroom where things are less subversive the bed lumps up in anger springs popping out to scratch my dusky thighs my little office sits in the alcove adjacent to the bed. it makes strange little sighs which distract me from my work sadistically i pull back the covers put my typewriter on the sheet and turn it on the bed complains that i'm difficult duty its slats are collapsing. it bitches when i blanket it with books and papers. it tells me it's made for blood and bone lately spiders ants and roaches have invaded it searching for food
I dream of you, to wake: would that I might Dream of you and not wake but slumber on; Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone, As, Summer ended, Summer birds take flight. In happy dreams I hold you full in night. I blush again who waking look so wan; Brighter than sunniest day that ever shone, In happy dreams your smile makes day of night. Thus only in a dream we are at one, Thus only in a dream we give and take The faith that maketh rich who take or give; If thus to sleep is sweeter than to wake, To die were surely sweeter than to live, Though there be nothing new beneath the sun.
A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding The gap left by things which have already happened Leaving nothing in their place, may have nothing to do But that. Dreams are like ghosts achieving ghosts' perennial goal Of revoking the sensation of repose. It's terrible To think we write these things for them, to tell them Of our life—that is, our whole life. Along comes a dream Of a machine. Why? What is being sold there? How is the product emitted? It must have been sparked by a noise, the way the very word "spark" emits a brief picture. Is it original? Inevitable? We seem to sleep so as to draw the picture Of events that have already happened so we can picture Them. A dream for example of a procession to an execution site. How many strangers could circle the space while speaking of nostalgia And of wolves in the hills? We find them Thinking of nothing instead—there's no one to impersonate, nothing To foresee. It's logical that prophesies would be emitted Through the gaps left by previous things, or by the dead Refusing conversation and contemplating beauty instead. But isn’t that the problem with beauty—that it's apt in retrospect To seem preordained? The dawn birds are trilling A new day—it has the psychical quality of "pastness" and they are trailing It. The day breaks in an imperfectly continuous course Of life. Sleep is immediate and memory nothing.
after Lorine Niedecker
Beyond a hand held beyond itself the mist is too thick to see. A dream fragment (a phrase I wanted to remember) goes mute in this— extinguished. Call it consciousness. What we lose to recover. Acacia branches bend the hill's edge off-orange. A blur, a deeper blur. A clarity I can't carry.