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Occasional Poem — Adrienne Weiss

Monday, August 28, 2006
by

Night Comes For Sleep
— Laila ba l’sheina

I didn’t wake to the firecrackers,
though breathing in bed was hard.

I dreamed you, lovely like untouched
water and the deep spread of your

voice, drowning sleep. I dreamed you
opening walls and startling the cold out

of me.

But I didn’t wake to the firecrackers,
though breathing in bed was hard.

I saw patios struggling to stay open
and city streets ruined with anger; you

opening the walls and startling the cold
out of me —
you — lovely like

untouched water — the deep spread of
possession, I struggled to stay open

for you —

but breathing in bed was hard,
without you —

and I didn’t wake to the firecrackers.
I don’t wake anymore; am left

dreaming of your voice, ruined with anger,
a startling pulse of drowning words.

This poem is meant to be read slowly, intoning the regular metre like a chant, savouring the pauses brought about by well-placed punctuation and line breaks. Its beautiful power lies in this steady rhythm and the repetition of certain key images in varying forms, which cast an incantatory spell.

These images — waking to firecrackers, breathing in bed, untouched water — all seem somewhat incongruous through the first half of the poem; but this is when Weiss starts weaving them all together, creating a vivid tapestry of loss and regret. ‘The deep spread of your voice’ becomes ‘the deep spread of possession,’ ‘I dreamed you opening walls and startling the cold out of me’ becomes ‘(I) am left dreaming of your voice, ruined with anger,’ ‘breathing in bed was hard’ becomes ‘breathing in bed was hard, without you.’ These shifts in phrasing while looping in the recurring images are a simple but strong technical device, giving the poem a depth that might not be immediately apparent.

The only place Weiss falters is in the sixth stanza with the line ‘I saw patios struggling to stay open.’ Such a description is out of place here; a patio is too specific and mundane a thing next to the more generalized and ephemeral imagery of the rest of the poem — especially preceding such an amazing line as ‘city streets ruined with anger.’

Night Comes For Sleep is taken from Weiss’s first, and so far only collection Awful Gestures. meopcco03971semaj

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, August 29, 2006 1:26 pm

    On first read I thought the poem was a little ponderous, but when I slowed it down, as suggested, it took on more power, and the structure of it became more obvious.

    I don’t particularly like the last line, it just doesn’t flow properly with the rest of it — for me anyhow.

    Quite good overall, though.

  2. Wednesday, August 30, 2006 1:05 pm

    I can see what you mean about the last line — it is abrupt, the rhythm is off from the rest of the poem, and the word ‘startling’ is somewhat awkward to say.

    I like it like that though — because it snaps you out of the chant-like metre of the rest of the poem, as if you’re being awakened from a trance, and makes you go back and focus on the specifics of the situation being described.

  3. Foreignsit permalink
    Sunday, December 6, 2009 5:47 pm

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