Construction Literary Magazine

June 2019

To Sleep

To Sleep
Wallace

The poet Donald Hall, once
a teacher of mine, has said
the best way to write a poem is
to go to sleep. But when I try
it, I find it’s difficult to concentrate,
or even hold a pen, and I remember
very little when I’m finished.
Sleep is a good companion but
if all great art is collaboration
sleep is not to be trusted not to
keep all the good stuff for itself
and, just when things look up,
send you packing alone into
the prosaic light of day.

It’s dangerous to lie down
mid-day, late March and dark,
a heavy, wet snow falling from the sky
or rising from the ground, it’s hard
to say, the day a blur
as you drift off toward sleep
rather than keeping your eye on
the great world around you
where it should be if you are
to earn the right to be
called a poet, attentive to
the details of everyday life—
the quality of light, the specific
gravity of the snow, the exact
weight of birdsong and wing.
On a day like today I should sing!

Ah, but poetry’s hard, and sleep
comes so easy, and what does the day
care if I just ignore it, and go
my easy way to oblivion, which is,
now that I think on it, such a
beautiful word.