Sunday, April 10, 2011

a poem by salita bryant

Near Sleep

You pray and pray until the prayer becomes like honey in your mouth
—Coptic Monk

Each night, in that space between chaos,
like the lull in a terrible war,

before my dreaming self begins to pray
its long pleading for no drawn breath,

my night body stands its unplumbed self up.
And on the bank of this river I am a disciple

of stars, and of what quiet gods will have me.
Oh, how much I love, in this river of my almost

sleeping, that which has always slipped
away beneath my grasp. Where in the

shallows, without shame, the sawgrass
kneels down into the river’s need.

And the shore ferns bury the tips of their fronds
into duff and root themselves forward, and walk

eastward or westward for want of the sun.
Where I am little more than ache rising

up like smoke the color of the open sea.
Yes, just think of pausing on the edge

of that bank, holding not a single desire
but the desire to call forth only the memory

of the mountain bell, and the profound silence
of the un-struck clapper in motion, of its hurdling

between the borders of its world. Think of
hearing the boundlessness of such nothingness.

Here it comes like the un-sound that swoops
in behind sound: a feathered winged thing in hushed

air, the slender silence before the lover’s gasp,
the sound of cobblestones after the horses.

Oh, every night, every night, undefended. Flowers,
flesh, years ripen and fall open, rot and fall away.

A blush of cherry blossoms eddy in the wind.
A devotion of silver-bellied fish lolls in sunshot water.

Fruit falls silently from the trees into my hands—
plum and pear. And I am not afraid

of all my sorrows rising up from slumber. Oh,
to come to know such in this land of bridges,

out along the edge of dream where there comes,
each night, the returning journey to where

there is no sound but the deep low moan
of the universe and stars huddled at the edge

whispering in the voice of a true voice, calling
my true name. Oh, quicken me now love, send me back

whole. And in wakefulness, let this ken sate the hollows
of my bones. And in silence and in near silence,

let the fruit fall from the trees in to my hands.
Let my honeyed tongue say what it must.

Salita Bryant is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Lehman College—City University of New York and has recently published in The Connecticut River Review, Alimentum, Agenda, Nimrod, Boulevard, Snake Nation Review, Dogwood, and The North American Review, among others. She lives in New York City.

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