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.