From THE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES
Galway Kinnell, 1971
VII LITTLE SLEEP'S-HEAD SPROUTING HAIR IN THE MOONLIGHT 1 You scream, waking from a nightmare. When I sleepwalk into your room, and pick you up, and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me hard, as if clinging could save us. I think you think I will never die, I think I exude to you the permanence of smoke or stars, even as my broken arms heal themselves around you. 2 I have heard you tell the sun, don't go down, I have stood by as you told the flower, don't grow old, don't die. Little Maud, I would blow the flame out of your silver cup, I would suck the rot from your fingernail, I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light, I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones, I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body, I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood, I would let nothing of you go, ever, until washerwomen feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands, and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades, and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague, and iron twists weapons toward the true north, and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress, and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men, and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the dark, O corpse-to-be . . . And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry, this the nightmare you wake screaming from: being forever in the pre-trembling of a house that falls. 3 In a restaurant once, everyone quietly eating, you clambered up on my lap: to all the mouthfuls rising toward all the mouths, at the top of your voice you cried your one word, caca! caca! caca! and each spoonful stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering steam. Yes, you cling because I, like you, only sooner than you, will go down the path of vanished alphabets, the roadlessness to the other side of the darkness, your arms like the shoes left behind, like the adjectives in the halting speech of old men, which once could call up the lost nouns. 4 And you yourself, some impossible Tuesday in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out among the black stones of the field, in the rain, and the stones saying over their one word, ci-gicirct, ci-gicirct, ci-gicirct, and the raindrops hitting you on the fontanel over and over, and you standing there unable to let them in. 5 If one day it happens you find yourself with someone you love in a cafe at one end of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar where white wine stands in upward opening glasses, and if you commit then, as we did, the error of thinking, one day all this will only be memory, learn, as you stand at this end of the bridge which arcs, from love, you think; into enduring love learn to reach deeper into the sorrows to come-to touch the almost imaginary bones under the face, to hear under the laughter the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss the mouth which tells you, here, here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones. The still undanced cadence of vanishing. 6 In the light the moon sends back, I can see in your eyes the hand that waved once in my father's eyes, a tiny kite wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look: and the angel of all mortal things lets go the string. 7 Back you go, into your crib. The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell. Your eyes close inside your head, in sleep. Already in your dreams the hours begin to sing. Little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight, when I come back we will go out together, we will walk out together among the ten thousand things, each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages of dying is love.