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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 5, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Once, in my apartment, I dropped a heavy object onto the floor; my neighbor came barreling up the stairs in a panic that something might have happened to me. Apparently a former tenant had died suffering an epileptic seizure in the shower, where she fell and struck her head. ‘Did she live alone?’ I asked. At the time, I did. ‘She had a husband,’ my neighbor explained, ‘but he was in the bedroom. He just kept right on sleeping.’”

—Monica Ferrell

The Sleeping Husband

This massive apartment: a whole room left
Empty to air, where we used to sleep.
So many steps on the waxed wood, like off turns
On the dial of a lock whose combination one’s lost—
All decaying about me like empire,
The moldings moldering while I sit frozen
As a swan on the surface of a lake changing to ice.
Fruit flies and mosquitoes, a water bug,
Carpet beetles, the mouse found behind the couch
Months after it’d shrunk to a puff of fur:
Nothing to eat here but beer and more dark.
The shower where someone’s young wife died
In an explosion of epilepsy while he slept.
One wonders what he was dreaming then.
The same dreams we once made here, maybe.

Copyright © 2018 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Monica Ferrell

Monica Ferrell

Monica Ferrell's second collection, You Darling Thing, will be published by Four Way Books in September.

by this poet


There is nothing beautiful here
However I may want it. I can’t
Spin a crystal palace of this thin air,
Weave a darkness plush as molefur with my tongue
However I want. Yet I am not alone
In these alleys of vowels, which comfort me
As the single living nun of a convent
Is comforted


I would have liked then for someone to touch me
So I could know the purpose of this hardship.
Black-eyed and impassive as a canyon,
From the hive of my mind, I looked at their faces 
As I moved between rows of espaliered pears.
I only intended for someone to show
Me, once, an affection

Man shaped out of mud
And made to speak and love—
Let's stick in him a little whisperer,

A bucket with two holes.
Let's give him the Great Deceiver,
A blood-stone.

A church with a vaulted ceiling
Where the White and Blue Niles meet.
A dog who cries after dark.

Everyone has a heart,
Even the people who don't.