The night clung to me. As I languorous lay
Patterns stuck to the walls like heavy thoughts.
You couldn’t breathe for heat. It sucks you in;
It crept around my waking writhing form.
Luxurious dolour, the menaced hour:
Kept through high waters in the flood of love.
I awoke, my life of chance in redesign,
Bare but for thinking: have I ever slept?
Oh generous sleep, oh patient, darkest sleep,
Unthink him from me: I pray, put sleep to him,
Put paid to this, forget his waking face
And bring dissolution to my wide resolve…
Decision formed from ample dreams, and soft,
I awoke once more to the violet of mercy
As the morning drifted to my wakened mind.
I looked about me, wasted on the rocks
Of choice, the captain of my destiny.
I’d slept on it: and so, sleep passed me by.
If you’ve ever tried to “sleep on a decision” – whether it’s about your career, where you live, your relationship, your family – you’ll know that the exact kinds of choice you need to “sleep on” are precisely those matters which will make all rest impossible. It’s particularly bad if, as with this summer, warmth drenches you in wakefulness and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine. If it’s a big decision, sleep takes second place. First place, of course, is reserved for dread. I usually just read Tender is the Night and hope beauty or inspiration takes me away from it all.
I was once struck by the phrase, “Be the captain of your own destiny.” And that’s a fair metaphor. But that freedom is not so easy. It overlooks the hazards of those seas: sharp rocks, treacherous waters, deep-dwellers. We are chained to the mast, and we go down with the ship.
I’ve had to casually make a few enormous life decisions recently, which in part explains this characteristically whiny post; but it’s also brought to mind nights rendered sleepless from lovesickness. Those were the WORST. You know it, people. The way each of these stanzas finishes on a line just delicately syncopating the rhythm hopefully brings to bear that lilting, tender unease.