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From What All the Sleeping Is For

To Thomas Hardy


You were born dead, no heartbeat, no breath.

A midwife folded you in a cloth and laid you

under the bed as one places bread in the oven

then joined the others tending to the still-bleeding

woman, who, after wrecking labor, was no one’s mother.

How long until a young attendant thought to try again

to wake you, lifted your limp form to the height

of the living and slapped your backside hard?


You puffed, then wailed, suddenly

pulled from a dark, silent room. So it is said,

many minutes after your birth you came to life. No trauma

of snaking through the tight sheathe to needling light.

You began to live as most of us wish to die—in your sleep,

and like the dying, wished only for time enough

to say everything to the living.




Her Young Death, Loose in You


Easy, she fell out undone,

a good idea not written down.

Two months later, when the due date came,


you couldn’t believe the grief.

A simple idea, a bloat with a date, a weight

breathing in bas relief


riding you like a new part.

To lose her you have to trace back to the start

of a thought you thought you had


sliding between your legs, a sense of wet then red then white

table scratchy paper and a doctor’s shaking head.

Now your family begs come back


like a false start kicking the chalky

line on some round track

but you think rip and wreck,


no box, no ground, just water—

not clean, not cool,


just the sound.




Making the Transition


The wet earth spreads into Spring—what all the sleeping is for.

Soon sea turtles will hatch under a shroud of sand,

poke up through the surface, thousands of needles

pushing through one tan cloth—the expanse you cannot believe one turtle,

heavy with her clutch of eggs, crept through, rooting for parts in the seams,

dropping the pattern. As soon as the young rise they race for water

making a new pattern, crosses and eloquent script in the sand,

some toward the ocean, some toward the rocks to be lost. A swarm

of tiny buttons teem to a fluid host to float out with the tide, to ride

the arc of their shells, then swim.

It’s not important that so few will live—so few

enter the water the excess of eggs seems fitting. Bear a thousand

that two may replace you who made them, male and female,

or three; father, mother and memory,

who next year will plant thousands of notions in the same sand, then sleep

to wear off the stupor of creating, like God, they say, slept

after making Light and Earth and the Word, and those who sleep in church

just to hear the exhausting effort of the miraculous.

Outside, parishioners arrive in new linen suits

and lilac hats, pink and eggshell weaves,

collars flapping their devotion to the first warm wind of Spring

like prayer flags on Everest begging for ascent.

Pews overflow in rows of the faithful, ready to repent

that He may rise again. The preacher bellows Scripture, thin hairs

on the backs of necks rise, children wake and tremble.

Maybe one or two of them will be saved, will stumble

out of the heavy wood doors and feel the breeze

blow up their dresses and raise their bangs,

touching every inch of their new skin.



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