About this Poem 

“I know very little about philosophy, but I delved into it when I began writing this poem and considering our sleeping selves—how in sleep we roll over, we dream; sometimes we speak out loud, all without conscious thought. In philosophy, epiphenomenon refers to a mental world that runs parallel to the physical world; various philosophers have argued which world has control and whether free will exists. It was my pleasure to dip into these philosophers’ collective musings, and it was a chance to speak to the body, my body, lovingly, to console.”

—Karen Skolfield

Epiphenomenon

Karen Skolfield
I spend a long time considering pillowcases.
Which pillowcase does my head want for rest? 
A lace edge so that the cheek does not grow bored? 
 
All night the face turns on its pillow, 
bridging the day gone with its divination of tomorrow. 
The brain sleeps but the body twitches and kicks, 
 
lashes out, steals the sheets, twists the blankets 
into thick, furred knots. Thomas Huxley believed 
the mind’s shrill whistle contributed nothing 
 
to the locomotive body; Plato, that the mind 
knows great truths while the body lives in shadows.
What I know is how sleep releases the body 
 
from me telling it where to put its feet, its fingers, 
how the tongue should roll its Rs, when the teeth 
may bite or gnash. I give it my consideration 
 
of pillowcases, of lotions and textures it may like, 
or farther afield—an actual field—clover against 
the skin. The sound of insects rising as the sun sets, 
 
the head leaned back into a cradle of hands, 
how the head adores the hands though they 
are separated by so much and the jealousy of arms. 
 
Body, I will lay you down beside 
another body you have grown to love. 
I will bid you still in the moments before sleep 
 
and then I will hand you the keys to the house 
and let you spend the night plying all the locks. 
In the morning I will wash you with care 
 
and lead you around and treat you kindly 
and if there is sobbing it is not my sobbing 
and we will both pretend not to hear it.

Copyright @ 2014 by Karen Skolfield. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Karen Skolfield. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2014.

Karen Skolfield

Karen Skolfield is the author of Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013). She teaches at the University of Massachusetts and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.