Going to Bed

By Jed Myers

These nights I slip down into sleep 
in minutes, freed from a lifelong
ritual, the slow obsessive surrender
of my vigilance. Some nights it took hours

to check all measures on the interior
monitor — savings, the kids'
immunizations, endangered birds,
the boy down the block gone to war….

Now, it isn't that peregrines nest
again on the Hudson's bridges (they do), 
nor that the detainees are released 
from Guantanamo (they are not).

I know the cisterns of Hanford are fractured
and bleeding our cancers into the river.
I know the immigrants wait in the culverts
to cross into Texas. I drift anyway.

I'm sure it's not that when I lie down  
in my bed, no one else is there 
in the flesh who will press the points
of the thorns of the day. And I'd swear

it isn't that I am eased to know 
my children, nomads now on their own
in this carbon-hazed wilderness, succeed
in trading the gold of true affection.

It's just that I slide into silence,
into the soil of sleep, down dream's 
rivulets, with no resistance, knowing 
this: a few I've loved have descended

for good, from air into earth, left
the world still pressing its weather east,
spring's blackberry stalks infiltrating
the beach paths, mosquitoes drinking

the sweet sera of lovers asleep
in each other's arms at dawn…. We go on
crossing over our mingled lost,
our footfalls on the sun-stained grass

a comfort to them if they listen in 
their sleep (they can't, but they haven't gone
far). We have our dark-hour meetings
(in topsoil? synapses?) — they thank us

for breathing, as we still play the leaves
while they take to the roots (a comfort 
to us as we draw the sheets like first
layers of dust up to our cheeks).

Last night my father and I took our seats
at a cafe table in part of the city
I'd never seen. His eyes gleamed
as he piped up Let's eat. So it was

and it wasn't real. He looked serene — 
not rushed as he'd always been
(in his vigilance). Dawn pressed
its way through the slats, and I surfaced.

He lingered. So I'll sink
again tonight, in trust,
into the under-life, a surrender
to depths off the monitor, to the silt

where my mother's father still picnics
and holds a baby girl up to the sun
by a Western Pennsylvania river —
where, a closed-eye blink later,

a thin boy in Lithuania runs
from a house on fire, toward America,
into the immeasurable brightness of love.
It's this: up from the loam of devotion,

out of the night, some will return,
by the human xylem of heartwood
and vine, to gather actual sun, 
here in the blood's branches creaking 

in time; some will remain in the night,
out of reach of the light's last fingers,
beneath our prisons, bridges, beds,
in the intricate unconscious mulch

where the world dreams its births, riots,
blooms, monsoons — a matter of inches
deep, under the lids of our eyes,
in this one tissue that sleeps and dies.
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About Jed Myers

Jed Myers is a Philadelphian living in Seattle. Two of his poetry collections, The Nameless (Finishing Line Press) and Watching the Perseids (winner of the 2013 Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), are forthcoming. He’s a Pushcart nominee, and winner of the 2012 Mary C. Mohr Editors’ Award from Southern Indiana Review. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod International Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Barely South Review, Atlanta Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, Crab Creek Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and elsewhere. (Author Photo: ©Rosanne Olson.)

5 Comments

  1. Posted April 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Fine poem, moving. Thank you.

  2. Catherine Carter
    Posted April 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    That’s really beautiful work. I’ll never like losing contests, but I am just fine with losing to this poem. Thanks!

  3. Posted April 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s hard for me to describe how much I enjoyed this poem. It touched me in many ways, and made me think of my own relationships with friends and family. I will surely come back and reread this from time to time.

  4. Charles W. Brice
    Posted May 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I loved “serra,” I loved “rivulets.” What a wonderfully structured poem. You covered so much in such a small space. Congratulations!

  5. CHRIS keoki MATTHEWS
    Posted July 2014 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    word… that was something else oxox

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