Just watching from bed with my glasses off and the lights out, a couple of things start to look like eyes on a face staring back. The desk chair making sure I stay awake. The elm (elm?) branches over the neighbour’s roof—waggling, prying fingers beyond the curtain.
This poem trying to get on in my head is the closest I’ve come this particular week to writing. I’ve got Sebald’s raccoon working on me, stop, this or that latest knife thru the inner circle, stop, still, stop, people telling me, stop, things I can’t forget. Then more stuff I can’t forget.
Under the covers: the dumbness of it in my note-taking app. I make tiny adjustments. My back hurts, like always, and I try to take the pressure off my L6 and 5. Keep rolling over with the pillow between my thighs. Leg up, leg down. I try to be my own reparative reading before daylight. No tweeting. For a couple of hours I think I sleep.
I wake up to my old B’s gratitude poems over FB—the run-on weave of them, snowshoeing across an old spring this sudden, felling new year—and I’m surprised, pleased. “Coming to understand / some matters are style” and I almost cry, thinking I recognize myself. Eight in the morning, I call him. Happy to hear each other try a laugh.
Before leaving the house R gets me online for a bit of advice. Her old harasser is still making jokes online. For days, weeks, months, it’s been nothing but men and the bad things they’ve done—the sleep lost over those not losing it. I listen, say what I can. We make a date for coffee in a few days. I send work emails.
Noon at the coffee shop, the manuscript doesn’t look like there’s anything else I can do about it before someone reads it. I send it to E. I send it to D. I start to think about the next small thing. I’m re-reading Jericho Brown: “Even asleep, everyone hears everything in prison.” Someone else messages me, needing to process. Maybe there’s no being done yet. Maybe I don’t like conclusions.
Part of me drops in on K at the shop just to see if I can figure it out in the moment. What he’s been skeptical of, and where he’s listened and tuned in. He’s got things on his mind, so I do the listening. I stay an hour, paging through a Sarah Pinder book over tea. He offers me some home-baked BBQ beans. No big answers I didn’t already have.
At N’s, I get that Camilla Grudova he’s been holding for me and we vent a while, talking shop and secrets, bumping shoulders on the front step. Kara texts me kitties licking each other’s heads.
At H and S’s thing, sweet art theory kids read their (actually very good) slow poetry. F brings in his father off the Chinese mainland and introduces him (“On Fiiiiire”) to Springsteen. SS elegizes her sweet dog Auden. A five-year-old thwacks a pink balloon against the VR scupture wall.
Meanwhile, C tries to read: “what stuck to my skin”; wondering out loud. “ZERO,” the little girl hollers, before strolling right up to the Plexiglas lectern in her white Patagonia. She stares him down. “Hey,” he says, kindly, between poems, and she snorts. Her father decides it’s finally time to go. Beer is free all night. I hug more men than I have in a year.
Back in bed, J texts asking if I can bring fun juice to huevos rancheros at hers and A’s in the morning. I answer with a Bitmoji (still): cartoon me in a pitcher of orange juice. I read and reread a message R sent mid-reading about an essay I wrote no one else may ever see. I reread the essay and wonder if anyone else will ever see it.
Downing the last of the sleepy tea, I fail to come up with a single line of poetry before trying, again, to sleep. None of this ever stops being overwhelming, but I get used to it in waves. I decide it’s a good sign. I get better at not knowing all the time.
I hear Inspector Coconut meowing downstairs at T’s and get up to let him in. I pat his butt just how he likes it. Let him roam at will. Find his bedtime in the bathroom sink.
I manage four hours of sleep.
David Bradford is the author of Nell Zink is Damn Free (Blank Cheque Press, 2017) and Call Out (knife | fork | book, 2017). His work has appeared in Prairie Fire, Lemon Hound, Vallum, Poetry Is Dead, The Capilano Review, and elsewhere. An MFA candidate and Ontario Graduate Fellow at the University of Guelph, he splits his time between Toronto and Montreal, and is working on Dream of No One But Myself, a hybrid book of poetry, family photo cut-ups and collages, and soft self-erasures. It's almost almost finished.