|Image from The Matrix from en.wikipedia.org.|
BY BARBARA GUEST
Sleep is 20
insignificant flamenco dancer
important as you watched
the mountain ridge
the dry hills
What an idiotic number!
Sleep is twenty
it certainly isn’t twenty sheep
there weren’t that many in the herd
under the cold crest of Sierra Nevada
It’s more like 20 Madison Ave. buses
while I go droning away at my dream life
Each episode is important
that’s what it is! Sequences —
I’ve got going a twenty-act drama
the theatre of the active
the critics are surely there
even the actors
even the flowers presented onstage
even the wild flowers
picked by the wife of the goatherd
each morning early (while I sleep)
under the snow cone
of Sierra Nevada
yellow caps like castanets
I reach into my bouquet
and count twenty
yellow capped heads
flowers clicking twenty times
because they like to repeat themselves
as I do as does the morning
or the drama one hopes
will be acted many times
As even these dreams in similar
Information from PoetryFoundation.org: Barbara Guest, “20” from The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest. Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Guest and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest (Wesleyan University Press, 2008)
This was the most musical poem of this chapter. Before I watched the video discussion, I scribbled down some impressions of the poem: I think of clicking prayer beads, a meditation on dreams and waking.
While I came away with something entirely different from the video discussion, this personal takeaway was also very valuable to me. I've been trying to study my sleep habits. As an adult, I'm supposed to be sleeping at least 8 hours a night. Lately, I've been getting by with only six or seven hours (thanks in part to ModPo! But I'm not complaining, really). I find it very interesting to cross the threshold between waking and dreaming. I also just finished reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin and it's fascinating to just contemplate the power of the subconscious. And the effects of NOT getting enough sleep!
I like how the poem doesn't even need to make sense. Attending to the words is already musical in itself. The words click, the sounds make a rhythm, the images join the rhythm and I'm totally immersed in the synesthetic experience (I love that word and what it signifies). I dive into clicking butter bells and at the end, 20 isn't sleep anymore but castanets.
Indeed, the last lines were well-earned.
Sleep comes in zeroes.
Ones and zeroes
remembering the flowers in the faceless
driver's long hair in Bali
who became a god as you watched
the endless waves of the long beaches
and the perfectly secretive lava rock statues
Is zero even a number!
Sleep is 0
It isn't a jar of cream.
But maybe it is, one hidden in my luggage,
crossing over from Jakarta
It's more like the lack of taxis
on a rainy night in front of Cybergate
while I slip away into my dream life
like so many episodes of Glee
even the ones that I missed,
like that tribute to Cory Monteith,
like the one where I catch a yellow cab.
That's what it is! Episodes-
A five season comedy-drama-musical
the TV of the active
the audience is there
the actors are there
even Charice Pempengco
before she came out
and the songs
even the wordless songs
as we woke up to burning
incense every morning
pink and white calachuchi
I reach to touch my lei
and I don't feel a thing
Silence, only silence
and maybe one sound
just pause and then gong
As I imagine, as this morning
or the series one hopes
will be shown many times
As even those dreams
That was just a bit of fun, playing with Guest's "20" and the internet and how the internet on all devices keeps me awake at night. And not just me, actually.