By Dawn’s Early Light



At 5:30 the past three mornings, 
dawn's snuck into my bedroom uninvited. 
It peeked around the edges of the drapes, 
mute beneath the hum of the fan blades.
Across the floor it padded like 
a big old white dog, leapt up on my bed, 
flumped its head upon my pillow, 
and stared, its breath hot and tickling 
my eyelids open. But it wasn’t Sunday’s 
light and heat reveille kept me from slumber. 

No, my mind now sprung from its own rack
and began pelting me with questions 
like a bedside five-year-old who asked 
the why and why not of certain things. 
Once you try telling a mind to go back to sleep, 
your snooze is over. I couldn't answer that pest, 
his dog nor the busybody Sun, because these were 
our same old whys and why nots I've tossed to 
by moon glow until past midnight for years now. 

Another BLINK of My Life



I still count my days 
by my nights, 
or at least by the single blink 
each night has become. 
Slide into bed, 
click off the light, 
settle my head and 
BLINK…morning.
The problem is the moments 
spent between settle and BLINK, 
that period of near-sleep 
where I breathe those
pretty or sad words next to 
the face that will appear 
in maybe-light or almost-chiaroscuro
on the ceiling.
When my mind finishes, 
it closes its own eyes 
and we rest without sensing 
the passage of time. 
We'll have done all our dreaming 
in penning the words on the ceiling.
Then dawn, the "K" piece of BLINK,
scatters them like birds except those
I was lucid enough around "B" o'clock 
to slip under my pillow.

For Day 23 of NaPoWriMo 2021, I borrowed a prompt from my friend Carolee Bennett again. She asked that I consider what repetitions in my life mark time, and write a poem featuring one or more of them. If you've been around for my relatively short "life" as a poet, you know about my love/hate relationship with sleep. Perhaps this poem explains why.

No Rest for the Teary

It doesn’t matter if I sleep or not,
since rest isn’t there when I awaken.
Perhaps, like blankets when I felt too hot,
I kicked it to the floor and t’was taken.

“By whom?” you ask, since the door’s always locked
and I try to keep the room in darkness.
I’ve no idea, my mind’s blank’ed and blocked,
which was its same state before I started.

But I digress, can’t hold a thought too long,
when sleep in teaspoon doses is proffered.
Which is why I’m asking you in sing-song
rhymes for your help, since you never offered.

But you know grief, obsession and guilt, too,
you’ve worn them like PJs or a nighty.
I’ll bet you’ve ceiling-stared without a clue,
your need for sleep equally as mighty.

Like you can’t go on, you’ve awakened feeling,
all night you’ve spent tossing body and thought.
And, if you can rise, you’re then sent reeling,
weary from chasing what you never caught.

Sorry, this wasn’t to be about you,
since it’s I who need to find the best cure.
I should leave you alone, you’ve suffered too,
I can’t expect you to be my rescuer.

My bed’s too crowded after all these years,
with sins I’ve committed, choices I’ve made.
They kick and elbow me sometimes to tears,
I hide in the pillow where poems I’ve laid.

That’s the ink in which to you I wrote this,
and no sleep’s the toll I paid for the ride.
No wonder I feel so worn and worthless.
Not quite an answer, but at least we tried.

Impossible Dreaming

Did you know, for so long,
it was impossible for me to dream?
My body and mind would churn
upon the bed until darkness
swallowed my consciousness.
And then I would awaken,
as if I blinked and night
suddenly spit me out into morning.

Nowhere in that between-time
did that dream world
reveal itself, only near-sleep’s
breath and breath, oblivion
of a seeming-second’s length,
then emergence from lonely nowhere
to abandoned somewhere.

That was, until I discovered
my problem wasn’t so much
tossing in bed worrying about
the impossibilities of
my dreaming life. Rather,
it was all that useless dreaming
of my waking life’s impossibilities.
Like… you know. And now you know.

Day 15, the Ides of April, halfway point of my poem a Day marathon. Today called for a “dream” poem. Sleep and dreaming, actually the lack of same, used to be way up there on my list of themes. Not so much anymore. Thank goodness.

I Still See a Face

It seems so stupid,
how that face is still in my thoughts
visiting me more often than even
someone’s idea of a Muse.
And while some might call it
my poetic river’s source,
the thought of it brings
more sorrow than joy.
On my ceiling dark, I lie awake
and see those eyes swing
from glad to sad to mad
(or even angry)
and randomly hopscotch emotions
until my mind surrenders
in exhausted relief.
And so thank you
for your curious lullaby.

Your silence is often the last voice
I hear before the darkness
consumes my consciousness
and my dreamless sleep
provides escape from
the gladness, the sadness,
the madness, that would
drive most other men to
slumbering fantasy,
but prods me toward
the sweet relief of a poet’s
near-sleep breath and breath,
hopeful that even if all those
transgressions are not forgiven,
they may, at least someday,
like that face,
be forgotten.

Why It’s Called the Evening

Sometimes I wonder why
I live so much life
when you are done
living yours each day.
As you lie in your bed,
resting and recovering
from the energy spent
being you or assuming
the role draped across
your waking shoulders,
I come to life,
in the near-sleep,
staring straight up
into the dark, where
my imagination shines.
While you sleep,
we are performing
feats unthinkable
in daytime, when
the light blinds
my mind’s eye.
It is my balancing time
between day’s dull reality
and night’s brilliant hope,
no matter how fanciful.
Maybe that’s why it’s called
the Evening.

Poem-a-Day for April 26th, an “evening” poem.

The Art of Losing Your Mind

The blanks outnumber the faces now.
Too many of their names were erased
by nightwind after nightwind
when I no longer talked to them,
of them.
I remember you, but not really.
You’re a placeholder of
emotion
I never understood and now
stand no chance of recapturing.
How can I recapture in this art
of artful remembering what I
never truly captured first?
And so, you are lost to me,
and so is he, she and them,
this population of my mind.

The diaspora of the beautiful
and the profane,
the angelic and the insane,
washed away by the rains
pushed over me by the fears
I tried to escape
by not closing my eyes
in this battle that’s left me old.
Even if I’m shown a
photo and reminded
“This is…”
the you I see will more than likely
be blown away
by the sleepless nightwinds
and the forgotten dawns
left to me.

Day 12 of Poem-a-Day April.

The Hard Heart of Morning

Somewhere between asleep and awake
I find myself in the only place
I never think of you.
Maybe it’s because I tried
too hard yesterday and tired
too hard last night, hoping
I might see you, hear you,
perhaps in that dreamtime
before sleep spits me out
like a cherry stone, the too
hard heart of something
soft and sweet. Or even tart.
It is the silent moment
before voices call and
the eyes open to morning.
This is the quiet place
where I am ever alone,
and I’ve come to love it
as much as I love you.

Day 1 of Poem a Day Challenge 2019. A “morning” poem.

Like You-Named Stars

The pillow to my back’s giving a push
toward this keyboard that won’t give an inch.
That’s how it’s been for this long lonely while
when the only you I see is up where
the stories come, through the dark to my bed.
That’s not in any dream, but in that time
between awake and not, since sleep won’t come
in the sense that I awaken like new.

I don’t really sleep, not because of you,
but because my sore old heart’s not in it,
just like your heart’s not lying here near mine.
So I toss and knot blankets, turn pillows
into lovers and foes. Doesn’t matter
since they’re not really human, though I am.
I’m so human, I miss something never mine,
which is why imagination became
my dear new friend and worst old enemy.

But that’s how I see you, through darkened rooms
like centrally heated tombs, where I share
a bed with ghosts of the not dead yet lost.
And they steal the covers and push me off
the edge, toward this keyboard upon which
I crash, opening the wound that you see
right here, amid all these, my other scars,
the ones hung on night air, like you-named stars.

Someday, One Day, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

I hope to smile as I sit up
in bed from another night of sleep.
Someday.
Real sleep, not the toss and turn,
the clusters of one-eyed
30-second awakenings,
the bedclothes-shifting kick-flips
of the nocturnal 5000-meter
medley swimmer in the sheets.
I won’t be sad when
One Day
I sink to the bottom five minutes
after I dove under the covers,
as long as I don’t awaken
with a gasp and snort of a man
who really DID sink to the bottom
of a pool on his way to swimming out of
Yesterday.
That guy doesn’t smile when dawn
slaps him like a walrus flipper
with that long arousal called
Today.
But that smile’s just a dream,
and we who don’t sleep
the good sleep tend not to dream.
And dreaming would be a dream come true.
Then dawn would break open
with a smile for me..and you…
Tomorrow.