Friday, February 20, 2009

The Night House 

Been too busy lately to read all of the poems that Joe Riley posts each day on Panhala. The kind of being too busy that isn’t just about finding gaps in time which aren’t filled with activity, but is about being sufficiently able to still the clamour in the mind when between activities. A clamour which is the echo of all that frenetic activity and worry spilling over into what ought to be the quiet spaces in between, but isn’t.

It was an accident - or so I thought – that I clicked on the link that led to this poem. I’d intended to click the next email down – a list of job vacancies - but in my haste I missed. I’m glad I did; it seems kinda relevant…

The Night House

Every day the body works in the fields of the world
mending a stone wall
or swinging a sickle through the tall grass --
the grass of civics, the grass of money --
and every night the body curls around itself
and listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises
from the body in the middle of the night,
and leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
with its thick, pictureless walls
to sit by herself at the kitchen table
and heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
and opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens
and roams from room to room in the dark,
darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof
in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
singing a song about the wildness of the sea
until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

resuming their daily colloquy,
talking to each other or themselves
even through the heat of the long afternoons.
Which is why the body -- that house of voices --
sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
to stare into the distance,

to listen to all its names being called
before bending again to its labor.

~ Billy Collins ~

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