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Michael Simms: Sacred Sleep

My sleep is punctuated with terror 
and excursions into weirdness, 
and I usually wake in the dark hours, 
no doubt caused by my father waking me 
in the middle of the night when I was a child 
to discuss a minor sin I’d committed. 
If I weren’t alert enough to tell him 
what he wanted to hear, he would strike me 
without warning and walk away satisfied 
with the discipline he enforced 
in his prescription-induced rage.
 
So, I’ve always slept with one eye open
like a prey animal in its burrow
peering into darkness.
For Eva, who had loving parents, 
sleep is not a descent into madness 
but a flight on the back of a great bird
headed for a distant valley where
safety and serenity can always be found.
 
I’d love to be like Merlin 
sleeping forever in a magical forest 
where his beautiful enchantress visits
every evening. But no, my sleep’s the version
where the Lady of the Lake throws Merlin in a pit
and the Great Mage is never heard from again.
No death’s dream for him, 
only long oblivion in the dark
while night-worms crawl on his flesh.
 
I remember as a boy escaping 
to the stables on a summer night. 
The moon shone down on the metal gate.
Puppies lay in a furry mound,
wrapped around each other 
in a thick disk of contentment
while big dogs rested nearby.
Horses stood in their stalls sleeping 
and later lying down, settling into straw
to dream of whatever horses dream of
when they’re protected and well-fed.
 
I’ve read that whales can go a month
without sleeping. Drifting 
on the waves with their pods,
they take turns descending into slumber,
pups dozing beside their mothers.
Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive
10,000 feet into utter darkness 
and sleep for hours at a time
without breathing.
 
I’m lying in the darkness with my Eva
and I’m thinking of the infinite space 
between waking and sleeping, 
how Black Elk traveled far from his body
in a pure quest to save his people.
He knew only in sleep are we fully aware, 
only in sleep can we let go of what we think
we know is real, let the sharp edges fall away,
only in sleep can we embrace our true selves.
 
I believe if I surrender to loving 
this woman with my whole being
and let nothing else touch my heart
then whoever I may be
or whatever I do or try to do
my love will never be extinguished
and I will find its likeness in all things
and I will no longer seek peace
because it is already mine.

Michael Simms is the founder and editor of Vox Populi. His latest collections of poems are American Ash and Nightjar (Ragged Sky, 2020, 2021).

Copyright 2021 Michael Simms. From Nightjar.

In the Indian Ocean, a group of more than 30 adult sperm whales are sleeping at a depth of 15 meters. They stand like this without moving for minutes or hours. . PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHANE GRANZOTTO. National Geographic.

40 comments on “Michael Simms: Sacred Sleep

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    January 19, 2023

    I love this poem. Love as salvation. Because it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lex Runciman
    January 18, 2023

    This is marvelous, stately in pacing. And those last two stanzas…

    Like

  3. Lisa Zimmerman
    January 15, 2023

    Even with its darkness, the light of love shines through this beautiful poem, Michael.

    Like

  4. George Bilgere
    January 15, 2023

    This one will stay with me, Michael. I understand it in so many ways. I just read it aloud to my wife, who wept. Thank you for this gift.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      January 16, 2023

      Thank you, George. I’m a big fan of your work, as you know…

      Like

  5. John Samuel Tieman
    January 15, 2023

    My beloved and I often speak of artists who make great art out of their pain. Van Gogh. Smetana. Twain. Great comics like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. You too have made great art out of your pain. I am awed by the accomplishment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Barbara Hamby
    January 15, 2023

    I love the way this poem moves through time and space.

    Like

  7. Deborah DeNicola
    January 14, 2023

    Lovely richly -textured poem, Michael!

    Like

  8. Shawn Sexton
    January 14, 2023

    Sleep used to be unequivocal for me— a refuge, before this latter and unforseen uncomfortability. I will keep the slumbering whales in my thoughts—perhaps my oft hard-won dreams. They are our opposite, wakefully recumbent, somnolently erect. How strange it all is in this world of effects.

    Like

  9. abby
    January 14, 2023

    thank you michael, this is beautiful and painful all at once: only in sleep can we let go of what we think
    we know is real

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      January 14, 2023

      Oh, Abby, I admire your passionate and inventive prose so much. You can’t know how much your praise means to me. Thank you!

      >

      Like

  10. Peter J Crowley
    January 14, 2023

    Thanks Michael reality and dreams often merge in the pre dawn.. peace

    Like

  11. Rosemerry
    January 14, 2023

    oh, this poem, such weaving of personal story and myth and mysticism and the natural world and surrender … beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      January 14, 2023

      Rosemerry, your praise is like a silk garment I’ll wear all day… thank you.

      >

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Loranneke
    January 14, 2023

    Oh dear Mike. How I wish I could offer you the sleep of a whale like one would offer a bowl of good soup… But alas. A physician once told me “the body has its own memory too” when I told him that each night — at the same hour — I gasp awake…like you.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      January 14, 2023

      Oh yes, Laure-Anne, the body remembers. Eva and I often talk about the dark night of the soul… the terrors that come in the last hours before dawn.

      >

      Like

  13. Valerie Bacharach
    January 14, 2023

    What a wonderful poem, such amazing imagery. Sleep as a flight on the back of a great bird, the magical whales, then bringing all of us into the peace and love at the end of the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alexsondra
    January 14, 2023

    I am always humbled, when, in a somewhat random fashion, I click on one poem ignoring the rest, at least for the day, only to find a gem I was meant to receive. This is such a gem, and fortunately, I listened to Spirit, when it said, “pause and read this one, read it today” Thank you .

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Rose Mary Boehm
    January 14, 2023

    “…
    and I will find its likeness in all things
    and I will no longer seek peace
    because it is already mine.”

    yesssss

    Liked by 1 person

  16. kim4true
    January 14, 2023

    That’s lovely, Michael. So vulnerable.

    Like

  17. cgainey
    January 14, 2023

    Beautiful poem, Michael! Thank you for posting it and all the daily gems you pluck for us! May 2023 bring you and Eva some well-earned joy. xceleste

    >

    Like

  18. John
    January 14, 2023

    A poignant reflectin with a way of seeking comfort. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  19. Beth Peyton
    January 14, 2023

    Oh, to be a sleeping whale…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. edisonmarshalljenningsgmailcom
    January 14, 2023

    Thank you for this, Michael.

    Like

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2023 by in Health and Nutrition, Most Popular, Note from the Editor, Poetry.

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