Once, numbed and split apart
with all the casualness of a letter-opener
firm against the fat contents of a long-awaited envelope,
my body revealed a face,
the face of my son about to be born.
The doctor was startled to see his eyes,
already open, intent upon him,
eyes that spoke of other worlds,
of a reason for being, being here, being now,
his seven pounds a screaming missive from most high.
For ten years past, night after night,
he keeps his eyes open as long as he can,
thoughtful dots in the dark, for the day
could never extend itself enough to please him
nor to hold his magical masterly plans
and too, there are worries: of earthquakes,
a friendship gone wrong, a love that might
disappear unintentionally, like a mom
mowed down by a car or a dad who worked
too hard, a stammer that won’t, and more.
Eventually, my own body weary from the effort
of imposing a sleep he does not want,
I come to turn out his light and find
his eyes closed at last, limbs limp, seeming
grateful for the slow and slower breath, the
weight of them against the hockey stick
sheets like four pucks landed in their nets.
Sometimes the curtain lifts a little, letting in
the gasp and sigh of the world he’ll inherit,
and out skate his dreams.
This poem was first published in an earlier version under the title “My Son, Unable To Sleep” in CV2 in 2001.
Waking up in the night
before the bugling of birds,
no child’s screams
tracking the 3:00 a.m. train,
no trucks or buses
bellowing into the valley
from the mountain highway,
no siren, for once,
gathering all who can hear
into its grief,
to your stammering
sinking past the debris
washing over you
like a river-rich sea
Your family sleeps, unaware
you are stealing eternity
for an hour.
By the time they rise
you will be ground into sand:
a beach that can hold
the jump and jaunt
and slow toe-kick
of all their footprints,
until evening’s flood-tide.
This is the title poem from my chapbook, “Stealing Eternity”.