Friday, January 5, 2007


There is sleeping, and there is being awake, and then there are those in-between spaces: the moments when you are just dropping off to sleep but still minimally conscious, and the moments when you are awakening, but not yet fully in possession of your faculties. The brain seems to work differently in those moments, fragments of dreams intersecting with sensory perceptions from the real world. I have often found myself turning over in my mind a phrase or an image or the ghost of an idea that was with me as I rose to consciousness from the subterranean world of sleep, and on more than one occasion that vestigial remnant has become the germ of a poem.

Last night the wind was rattling and howling loud enough to keep me in that in-between zone for a longer time than usual. I be awakened, and then drift back down, only to be awakened again. In the moments I was more fully awake, I found myself thinking about the movement of the wind, where it comes from, what it is seeking, and it occurred to me that there was some potential analogy between the movement of the wind outside and the movement of my thoughts as I listened to it. That idea suddenly seemed to me to be more inviting than simply turning over and trying to go back to sleep, so I got up and grabbed a pencil and my notebook and began to write. I started by listening to the wind and trying to find some words for that, and then heard music coming from my son's bedroom, and so I began to work that in as well.

I began to sense that I had a three-part poem going, and so I kept working on that. My first draft had three nine-line stanzas, but when I re-drafted the poem this morning I lengthened the line and cut back some of the wording. It's still wet, and I'll be tinkering with it for a while yet, but here's what has emerged so far:


The wind is up tonight, tearing at the louvres, sweeping
along the concrete contours of our condominium and
clutching at the corners with distraught whistles and moans.
It seems to seek a space in which to flow free, a world
flat and frictionless, mirror-smooth beneath the blackened sky.

In the next room, my son stitches syncopated rhythms
and fragments of songs into a beat to back the rap
that even now is on his lips, pulsing forward, words emerging,
surging, swirling in search of a shape that will hold the freight
of his urge to create a sound riveting and seductive and true.

Then there’s me, alone in the living room at ten before midnight,
pencil in hand, trying to lay the loose ends of my thoughts
into a line of syllables that will tame the restless currents
flowing through my mind, gather me up in their soft constraints,
and carry me off content at last into the stillness of sleep.

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