After Re-reading “The Sleepers”

After Re-Reading “‘The Sleepers”

You look so beautiful when you’re asleep,
he says, and I say, no, yet,
having read Whitman, I also know
what he means,
how faces soften
when sleep comes,
how the sneer of even the hardest heart calls
a short cease-fire,
how the scowl of the unmoved makes
a temporary peace,
as if between the wrinkles of sheet and skin,
against the rock-dark grid
of pavement or sheen
of sateen, on the slope
of slack-jaw,
the features find some child that is so young
it still is willing to embrace them–you know how unconsciously kind
the very young
can be–

And I wonder now about the sleep
of other earthen things–whether stone softens
as night falls or if we just imagine
its velveting,
whether grass puts down
its blades–
only grass, it seems to me, is just as likely
to snooze on a midsummer afternoon–I’m sure I’ve heard
its snore–in fact, this is one of the qualities of grass
about which I have
mixed feelings–

and, I don’t, I say to him, you probably just think I look nice asleep
because I’m not talking for once

 No, he smiles, bending to kiss the knuckles
of one of my hands,
and I know in that moment
a peace that can also be found
fully awake–

******************

Drafty poem for Gillena Cox’s Prompt on Real Toads to write in response to another poem; in this case I am writing a poem after re-reading The Sleepers by Walt Whitman.  This poem is quite different from that, but that started it out.  Drawing is mine; all rights reserved. (This has been edited since first posting.) 

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15 Comments on “After Re-reading “The Sleepers””

  1. gillena Says:

    Would you believe i recognised your art (✿◠‿◠)

    ” No, he smiles, bending to kiss the knuckles
    of one of my hands, a part of the hand that is so wrongly
    associated with fist,”

    Luv the peace of sleep in these lines

    Thanks for participating

    much love…

  2. sanaarizvi Says:

    There is such tenderness in these lines; “And I wonder now about the sleep of other earthen things–whether stone softens as night falls or if we just imagine its velveting, whether grass puts down
    its blades–” Sigh… beautiful!❤️

  3. Rosemary Nissen-Wade Says:

    Ohhh, this is wonderful! I love every line. (The Whitman is wonderful too, in a different way – though I was rather amused by his, ‘ the sick-gray faces of onanists’; an assumption we’ve grown beyond, I think.)

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Oh my… I suppose few look ugly when asleep. It is glorious when someone sees you asleep as only an extension of what is loved when your eyes are open.

  5. Jim Says:

    I like this, K. Before I even read it or the title I had to count the people sleeping in your nice bed drawing. I got eight but just counted once. Really a clever idea (goofy though) of the solid items and objects sleeping. When we raced old cars though, we had to magniflux the front end parts for safety. It is called “metal fatigue”. That’s why I have slowed down with my Mustang, a 1998. It’s low mileage, 108K for 19 years, but plenty old to have metal fatigue. It still gets to 140 very quickly.
    I know our flowers don’t sleep, they wait in fear to see if they are the ones going to be rabbit meal this night.
    ..

  6. Candy Says:

    I love the wonder of this. And i might just listen for snoring on my lawn!

  7. M Says:

    ah. your voice returns, more clearly than ever. tender, intimate, wry – wonderful ~


  8. such a wonderful discourse here with Walt looking over shoulder…stones that soften!Grass that snores!but of course.

  9. Marian Says:

    Oh, gosh this just makes me sigh, Karin. The piece about not talking … I can relate. 🙂 Wonderful.

  10. Kerry Says:

    A wonderful poem with a carefully measured pace, leading the reader from one thought to the next. I love the contemplation of sleep softening rocks and grass – that really took me to another place.

  11. whimsygizmo Says:

    I love this, especially:
    “how the sneer of even the hardest heart calls
    a short cease-fire”


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