Listen to Podcast Interview with Grace Cavalieri on The Poet and the Poem

How We Fall Asleep

1. As a door opening in the bed

Iron studded, a door thick as peat fields.  Escutcheoned latches, hinges flat
black in the torchlight.  Creaking, the light on it shifting: motile darkness in the crack,
a hum, smell of peat and metal. Pressed against the chest of the door, you say maybe
you won't go in –  Oh –  

2. As a seed bed of dreams

A bed is never smooth but is alive with seeds writhing  
lifting, pushing off mother root.
Memories elbowing up blind through roughed furrows, uncoiling,
swelling into pods of flesh.
Scrawny runts cling on, fall away aborted.
Then rise the spangled buccaneers.

3. As the illusion of rest

A tickling, a vibration along the neck, underside of the arm,
an inviting refuge floating like a wing feather
or a swaddling liquid, the porridge of childhood.
Illusion is the always rippled surface –
the face of a stranger half-recognized. You follow to wherever it was you met.
No tomorrow. Only rest.

4. As a door closing

Only a rectangle remains: the light outside the fort shrinking back, ebbing
from the balcony where old lovers call down their lines. Below now, the
doorway narrowing, a triptych-angled slice of bright and the shriek of
hinges on the door, fat as a year, warning – get out before it's too late.
But it is too late and pawed shadows whirl up and breathe life.

5.  As death and life on bone

In the Book of the Great Liberation, the princess of Kotala was told
there were not corpses enough to feed the wild animals. So
at dusk she walked companionless to the edge of town
amidst the creeping, panting and shrieking.
She unwound her garment, lay herself upon the rubble
upon the shards of bones half chewed in the cemetery.
She called Come.
As you lay yourself out, that others might feast.

Ann Philips -
from A Language the Land is Inventing