Posted tagged ‘After Whitman’s The Sleepers poem’

After Re-reading “The Sleepers”

April 23, 2017

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.)