Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

            inspired by “La Berceuse” by Vincent van Gogh and a song by the same name by Kayleen Asbo, with a line from Paul Gaugin
There is, inside all of us,
all of us, all of us,
a child who longs
to be rocked, and rocked,
a soul child who longs
for the old sense of cradling,
a soul infant, fragile,
so green, so new,
who knows only to trust
that someone, someone,
peaceful and still,
someone with patience
and infinite calm,
with a quiet face
and sober eyes
will sit beside us
in heavy-lidded moments
when we glide defenseless
on dim shores of dreams,
yes, someone, someone,
will watch us, will watch,
will keep watch and will usher us
slowly to sleep,
to sleep, though we fight it,
oh shhhh, shhhhh.
Can you feel it, the rocking,
the rocking, the rocking,
can you feel it, the rocking,
that never stops?
Oh bless the hand,
the patient hand, 
oh bless the hand
that rocks.

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In Those Quiet Hours

For two weeks after he died,
I’d fall asleep exhausted
only to wake just past midnight.
Desperate, I’d claw at sleep,
frantic to catch it and clutch it,
but always it slipped my grasp
and I’d lie awake till morning.

My friend suggested
I reframe those sleepless hours
as a sacred time, an intimate,
personal quiet time. Not a problem.
Not something to be treated.
Not something to be feared.
That night, as I emerged from sleep,
dreams dripping from me like water,
I did not resist the waking.
Instead, eyes closed, heart open,
still lying in bed, I said,
I love you, Finn. I miss you, sweetheart.
And woke on the shore of morning.
Ever since, it happens just like this—
when I slip from sleep,
I tell my son I love him
and slide unknowingly
back into the tide of dreams.

How many hundreds of times
when he was young, did I go to him
when he cried out in the night?
I’d press my palms against his chest  
until his breath was a skiff for dreams.

Years later, though I can’t feel his hands,
though I don’t hear the lullaby of his breath,
somehow he arrives to comfort me.
And though I don’t hear him say
the words I’d always say to him,
I feel them float above me like a blanket,
warm in the cool night air—
Shhh. I’m here. It’s okay. I’m here.

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I wish you the peace of sleep,
your breath a canoe
that carries you
toward the next moment
without any need
for you to touch the oars.
How easily you arrive.

Oh, to trust the world like that—
trust you will be carried,
not just in sleep,
but in waking dreams,
trust no matter how high the waves,
the skiff of grace
has a seat for you.
And oh, to let go of the oars—
there is no steering
toward what comes next.

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Things to Do While Not Asleep

Check the time. Reach for scraps of the dream you just woke from.

Close your eyes again. Remind yourself of studies that say

you’re still getting rest even if you feel awake. Curse the studies.

Curse the awakeness. Notice how cursing wakes you even more.

Toss. Count breaths of the person sleeping next to you.

Tell yourself not to be resentful of them, though you are.

Touch your hand to the sleep heavy weight of their leg. Breathe.

Try not to remember something terrible you did long ago.

Perseverate on the details. Wish you could apologize,

though you’ve long since forgotten the names.

Determine that starting tomorrow morning you will be a better person

in a belated attempt to atone for past mistakes.

Tell yourself not to look at the clock again. Look at the clock again.

Calculate to the minute how long you’ve been awake. Worry

about tomorrow. Worry about your kids. Worry about the country.

Worry that you worry too much. Refuse to look at the clock.

There is a lake in the night, dark and deep. Feel yourself held by it,

as if you are floating. As if the night buoys you, cradles you like a mother.

Miss your mother. Take a few strokes in the night lake. Notice

how quiet it is. Feel yourself slip beneath its surface.

When the light comes, swim toward the light.

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While I Was Sleeping


And while I was sleeping, dreaming yet again

of being on stage without knowing my lines,

my erector spinae muscles decided to wrestle

with bears and my rhomboids crash landed

after the parachute didn’t open. My levator

scapulae muscles lifted ten refrigerators and

my trapezii danced in stilettos for hours. Is it any wonder

I woke unable to move my neck? There are days

we realize just how grateful we are for parts

of the body we never could name

until today the bodyworker wrote them down,

how lucky we are to take them for granted.

There are days when we wake and realize

how much happens in our sleep. There are days

we think how much easier it would be

to just end up on a stage not knowing

our lines. Darn those bears. Darn those high heels.

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Sleep, of course. Long,

uninterrupted hours of sleep.

For a week. For a month.

For a year. You’d just put your head

on the pillow, and sleep

would come meet you

like a devoted friend, or like

a dog that will come whenever you call,

and snuggle with you all night.


And then, when you woke,

I would give you the certainty

that life is worth waking for,

that you are beloved,

that everything you do

makes a difference, and

by everything, I mean everything.



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One Resistance



even as my eyes close

some voice in me insisting

I’m awake, I’m awake

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Forgiveness 101



The first person I forgive today is myself

for staying up too late last night—how

I loved reading into the late hours, the story


crooking its finger at me, tethering me

to its pages. What good does it do

to call myself stupid, to lash out at the part of me


who thrives on those slender moments

when I am alone and the house is quiet

and I am the sister of words. No, better to tell


that late night reader that I’m tired.

Better to smile at her, though she thwarts

the morning me who loves to rise feeling rested.


She does not apologize. I know I will have

to forgive her again. Somehow, when I start

with myself, it makes it easier all day long


to practice forgiveness for others—

the slow drivers, the complainers, the bullies,

the pouters. They probably have happier,


calmer, more rational selves, too,

that they are also thwarting. All day I practice seeing

the heart of a person. All day, when I yawn, I smile.


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That bed looks so great.

There is nothing right now

she needs to do but slip

between those soft blue sheets

and close her eyes.

She has no words that must be written,

no lessons to plan, no bills to pay,

no conversations to have.

She is tired, and she deserves to sleep

right now. She doesn’t worry for an instant

that there will be consequences.

She looks out the window

at the light across the street,

sees the silhouette of the woman

who lives there as she

fusses and rushes and hunches over her desk.

What could be more important

than dreams. Whatever needs be done,

tomorrow is soon enough.


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I like my body in the mornings
when the light has not yet stolen the room,
and when you, in darkness, turn your length
toward my length and bend your body
to match the curve of my spine.

I like the warmth our bodies find,
I like your legs bowed into mine,
your feet like a tangle of roots about my feet.

I like my neck when it’s touched by your breath,
and I like my waist when your hand rests there.
And my belly, I like how soft it is, like sweet dough rising.

So tender, this drowsy, dreamy, yielding state
when we are more flesh than name, more limb than thought,
more breath than what we know.

And the darkness holds us quietly,
your body, my body, oh how we linger,
indulgent, our boundaries blurred,
while all around us, even inside us,
the world with its edges and certainties
begins to dawn.

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