"Spring Night"
Copyright Galina Lukshina


Horses, yes.
Dogs, old ones especially.
People of course.
Even trees.

Planets, atoms, do not.
Bacterium, virus?

Pens sleep
most of the time.
but awaken quickly—
one shake
or a few dry strokes suffice.

A fire sleeps by dark,
a cat by daylight,
each curled in a warming circle.
A rock lies still or tumbles,
but cannot sleep.

Does the wool
sleep along with its sheep?
The hoof with its cow?

The finger sleeps
and the ring does not—
what of the vow?

A woman touched by a man
pretends, sometimes,
to sleep,
for the pleasure of letting him think
that she awakens.

After, her thighs
sleep differently than before.

Sometimes the heart
goes sleepless or sleeps for years:
sometimes the mind.

I have tried to talk
with my sleep,
to ask it politely for this or that,
but it only averts its gaze.

"Go away," it says,
and, "Leave me alone."
As if without me
it could be anything at all.

Still, it knows who is slave,
who master.

And so I lavish on it
goosedown and soft cotton,
offer it sweetened milk
or wine,
tuck it into warm blankets
under a window opened just an inch.

Some speak
of entering sleep,
but it is sleep that enters us,
as a farmer, familiar,
confident, enters his field.

Night after night it tills and waters,
so that at times we awaken
other times in inexplicable grief.

And though the child
who refuses to sleep
is right perhaps to be inconsolable—
begging more time,
clutching her bear to her cheek—
she too will finally agree.

Joining the silent magpies
and tough-skinned conch and saguaro;
the swaying mule deer,
suspended pipefish,
and deep-sighing maple—

all who, drifting,
quilt the drowsy night-song of the mortal.

Jane Hirshfield  copyright 2001
from The Kenyon Review
and Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins 2001)

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