“Do I wake or sleep?”
I sat in the parking lot of the sleep clinic
for an hour before my appointment
staring out at the mountains in the distance
that appeared as gorgeous bodies in both
prone and supine positions inhaling the sky—
dreaming themselves of all the ephemeral
things the clouds inspire in their eternal
pastime for now.
How I got to this place
is a mystery I can’t explain.
Call it exhaustion,
thing was that I was there on a couple
of plains at once with an eye that was blind
to itself in its socket of sky but sharp
in its vision of a hazelnut.
my eyes and went on dreaming, which I called
a symptom of my sleeplessness.
the condition I had developed after
so many years of nearly dying from suf-
focating in my sleep, which was why
I was there at the clinic dozing off
in my car.
But back to the mountains
and sky and goddess who suddenly
descended on me from a cloud in the form
of the cloud from which she descended—
most beautiful Isis—and then translated me
on the Nile because the parking lot was also
the Nile and she was the Mother of Time
again and I the Father who was playing
dead, at least in my dream.
Say it wasn’t
true and I’ll reply it was because it was,
just as a child believes that she can fly
or disappear or metamorphose into
a bear and wears a costume to prove it
and has friends over who believe
in her magic and take part in the scenes
that she makes up inside the forest
of her room.
So yes, my make-believe
was true if also ridiculous—a private myth
with legs that ran right out of my dream
and onto the page of sky for all to read
and believe as a myth that was like a book
at evening, beautiful but untrue, like a book
on rising, beautiful and true.
So, did I wake
I slept but my heart was awake,
was what I wanted to tell the doctor whose name
I had forgotten—that I was blessed, blessed
in my exhaustion, tuned in to the blue
beyond the clouds that transported me
in a high, oneiric fugue in which I could hear
the sounds that David heard in the hills
which had no words or speech but only
the silence that loves the company of a mind
fused to sky.
Only the heart divining the hum
“Don’t give me gold, but a piece
of paper,” I said to myself as a snoozing cipher
because I was receiving news like a radio tuned
to s station on a clear, sidereal evening
when the stars are so amazingly bright they shine
right through you and suddenly a voice
comes clear in a phrase or two that seems
nonsensical at first but works surprisingly well
as a caption for the dream you’re having
about something else that sounds so unrelated
until you hear its echo with your third invisible
ear and understand just then how deeply
besotted language is with that as this
and this as that in the voices of others
in the atmosphere whose world-wide wings
are bedighted with sacred feathers that fall
like pages with all our names.
I sat suspended
between the dash and the heaven within me,
calling it “father”, calling it “her”, calling it
It hardly mattered as long
as it was other.
“Yes, the clouds are a lullaby,”
“Yes, the zoo calls out to me.
Yes, I took my meds, and no, they’re hardly
indeterminate, friend, these metaphysical
puzzles that need a dream for you to put
together, that come in pieces like the clouds
for you to see just where they go by closing
your eyes and then remembering.”
But who was writing any of this down,
my recitation, and how did I remember?
And did you know the sacrifice I made
by even talking to you in my diurnal slumber?
Then suddenly the noontime whistle sounded
and I awoke from waking and opened the door
of my car in which I’d spoken with a beautiful
goddess who rescued me from inside that dark
interior in which I’d died to this world
but emitted such sweetness in my death
as a god myself she smelled me out.
How still I had lain on my catafalque inside
my sedan, receiving the news, conceiving time—
that ticking child, that mewling babe
at his mother’s breast on the Nile.
and distant I’d been in death to the world
that hangs like a jewel from the sky and lifts
you up like a cloud into its blue when you dream
of dying alive in your car with the windows
down and a warm spring breeze blowing through.
Thank goodness then for the whistle at noon
that woke me in time to save me from
another wait of a month or two to see
the specialist who thinks that I more
than likely suffer from “a pretty serious
case” of apnea and would I mind spending
the night in one of the clinic’s rooms,
where his assistant, the brilliant Ms Matoon,
can hook me up to a REM machine
that measures my heart and dreams?
“Not at all,” I said.
“By all means.”
Chard deNiord is author of five books of poetry, including Interstate, The Double Truth, and Night Mowing. His new book of interviews with nine contemporary poets, I Would Lie To You If I Could, is due out from the University of Pittsburgh Press in March 2018. He is the poet laureate of Vermont and lives in Westminster West, Vermont.