Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love Poem

Here's a love poem for the week of Valentine's day. It struck me anew as lovely, in the wake of the Twilight jokes about watching a loved one sleep and towards the end (I hope) of my powerful winter somnolence:

Variation on the Word Sleep, by Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head
and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

In truth, though, the odds of me being awake to watch anyone else sleep are low. I need more sleep than other people do, as I learned unequivocally 29 years ago this month when a doctor confirmed I was suffering from "exhaustion" after a week during which I got only about 4 hours of sleep a night. But hey, is romance about truth? No. Romance is about what you wish for. A person can dream!

3 comments:

paj said...

I love the last line of this poem. The romantic in me says that many years in a committed relationship leads to just that kind of "unnoticed" and "necessary" existence. The cynic in me wants to tell the author to try parenting a teenager--God's great lesson plan for teaching us how to be completely necessary and unnoticed.

KD said...

I've read this poem before and loved it. On rereading, though, I think that I have changed...I love the _idea_ of being "that unnoticed & that necessary", but....I think in reality, I'd resent being that unnoticed and be smothered by being that necessary. Sad. It's a lovely image, though.

Jeanne said...

It is interesting that there are clearly several ways to read the "unnoticed and necessary" lines. I was thinking of them in almost an apologetic way. Many years in a committed relationship lead to ruts, like who always does what (I'm always asleep first). But we switched sides of the bed after the first 25 years of marriage!