Last Sleep Best Sleep
Life, this charade of not-death.
Amnesiac of our nights together,
overheard talking in some other voice.
The great fruits of my failure:
silk milk pills with little bitter pits.
Who talks like that? Says we are
ever-locked, leaving everything
petalled and veined the way nature
pretended. Synthesized within
an inch of its life. O the many faces
of facelessness, breathing in the dark—
as if we could shape softness itself,
mold it around us like yams mashed
against a trough by a snuffling snout.
Our own. There’s no way out. Born
to such extra, we are born to lose.
No hairy fingers tapering to threads,
grasping for some lost last use.
Once we were hungry on earth,
soon buried like root vegetables—
to starve the soil as beets do,
growing in our graves.
But now we must remember
our way back to face-to-face,
to eye to eye and hand in hand,
and lock and step and key in hole.
Remembering how not to fall asleep,
we become so desperately drowsy,
and all cells strain to slow to a stop.
All desire to choose otherwise quiets.
No, no one can say we didn’t suffer,
that we weren’t swallowed whole.
Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Shaughnessy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.