KATHERINE RIEGEL

 

Sleep

He is jealous of the pillow she lays her head on.
It is the way she thinks about it, in the afternoon, with a longing
so near to lust.
At night at least
he is with her there, but he doesn't feel the pleasure
she knows when she is relieved from that terrible burden,
her body.

He watches her for signs of infidelity. If just once she turned down
that great black abyss for his sake,
perhaps there was hope. He might even be winning.
She announces her intention to nap and he cries, "No!" But her eyes
are already there. She wants that slow, inevitable escape. She must
have it. Only the cry
of her dog would keep her from it,
and then, later, she'd have to return again
to find her way in that familiar wood.
She talks about it like that--a wood, with dark trees, sweet flowers, and strange animals
drawing close and then bounding away.

Sometimes she tells him her dreams. Astonished,
he sees the apocalypse come a hundred ways; he sees all of her family
in the most embarrassing poses. Sometimes he awakens her
in the dim light of nightlights
whimpering and thrashing in the bed beside him.
The nightmare is always a dog lost or hurt,
the one tragedy she cannot bear.

He brings her feathers,
red and blue and striped and iridescent,
and she tells him the birds who lost them.
He wants to give her
the flight she has in her best dreams.

Nothing in his previous life could have prepared him
for this necessary giving over of his lover.
Sometimes in the morning she is still tired,
as from a long walk. He watches her gulp water
and push her hair back from her face. Sometimes he swears
there are twigs and leaves in her hair then. Sometimes he closes his eyes again,
trying to find that lost wood and follow her tracks,
but he never does,
and she can't tell him the way.