If sleep is truce, as it is sometimes said,
a pure time for the mind to rest and heal,
why, when they suddenly wake you, do you feel
that they have stolen everything you had?
Why is it so sad to be awake at dawn?
It strips us of a gift so strange, so deep,
it can be remembered only in half-sleep,
moments of drowsiness that gild and adorn.
The waking mind with dreams, which may well be
but broken images of the night’s treasure,
a timeless world that has no name or measure
and breaks up in the mirrors of the day.
Who will you be tonight, in the dark thrall
of sleep, when you have slipped across its wall?
Let’s imagine I’m translating something to you–
you, asleep, or sleepless and naming
that third place–between–
with the tips of your tapering fingers–
I don’t know the language.
In the mind–in that strangely shared chamber–
that is, I mean, in your hands,
where you show me those scenes of confusion and flight
with such intimacy, and don’t know it–
even sans color, sans liquor, sans shape,
we are twins. Fraternal. Unknown.
The moon, invasive, huge,
lunging in through the windows,
makes no exceptions–
It’s true: it will never happen / you’d be surprised.
I remember when my body
was a friend,
when sleep like a good dog
came when summoned.
The door to the future
had not started to shut,
and lying on my back
between cold sheets
did not feel
like a rehearsal.
Now what light is left
comes up—a stain in the east,
and sleep, reluctant
as a busy doctor,
gives me a little
of its time.
from The Virginia Quarterly Review