A couple of hours pass, and full darkness descends, and it feels later and later. The waning crescent moon won't be rising until after midnight, which seems much closer than it is. I'm sure I'll be asleep long before moonrise, and then awake again not long after that. These November nights are long.
by Larry Levis
Then, everything slept.
The sky & the fields slept all the way to the Pacific,
And the houses slept.
The orchards blackened in their sleep,
And, outside my window, the aging Palomino slept
Standing up in the moonlight, with one rear hoof slightly cocked,
And the moonlight slept.
The white dust slept between the rows of vines,
And the quail slept perfectly, like untouched triangles.
The hawk slept alone, apart from this world.
In the distance I could see the faint glow
Of Parlier—even its name a lullaby,
Where the little bars slept with only one light on,
And the prostitutes slept, as always,
With the small-time businessmen, their hair smelling of pomade,
Who did not dream.
Dice slept in the hands of the town’s one gambler, & outside
His window, the brown grass slept,
And beyond that, in a low stand of trees, ashes slept
Where men without money had built a fire, and had lain down,
Beside the river,
And saw in their sleep how the cold shape of fire
Made, from each crystal of ash, the gray morning,
Which consoled no one.
Beside me, my brother slept
With a small frown knitted into his face, as if
He listened for something, his mouth open.
But there was nothing.
On my last night as a child, that sleep was final.
Above me, the shingles slept on the roof,
And the brick chimney, with smoke rising through it, slept,
And the notes on sheet music slept.
I went downstairs, then, to the room
Where my mother & father slept with nothing on, & the pale light
Shone through the window on the candor
Of their bodies strewn over the sheets, & those bodies
Were not beautiful, like distant cities.
They were real bodies
With bruises & lattices of fatigue over their white stomachs,
And over their faces.
His hair was black, & thinning. Hers was the color of ashes.
I could see every detail that disappointment had sketched,
Idly, into them: her breasts & the widening thigh
That mocked my mother with the intricate,
Sorrowing spasm of birth;
I could see
The stooped shoulders & sunken chest of my father,
Sullen as the shape of a hawk in wet weather,
The same shape it takes in its death,
When you hold it in your outstretched hand,
And wonder how it can shrink to so small a thing.
And then you are almost afraid, judging by the truculence
Of its beak & the vast, intricate plan
Of its color & delicate shading, black & red & white,
That it is only sleeping,
Only pretending a death.
But both of them really unlike anything else
Unless you thought, as I did,
Of the shape of beaten snow, & absence, & a sleep
They lay there on their bed.
I saw every detail, & as I turned away
Those bodies moved slightly in the languor of sleep,
And my mother cried out once, but did not awaken,
And that cry stayed in the air—
And even as I turned away, their frail bodies,
Seen as if for a last time,
Reminded me of ravines on either side of the road,
When I ran,
And did not know why.