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Fall 2004

The Bed

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Outside the house, the field stretches out fully,
dark and inviting, it opens to the night rain. It rains
on the houses, it rains on the boy
coming home late, after supper's been served.
His brother's asleep in his own room, he orbits
in sleep the other rooms of the house. The boy hasn't eaten,
it feels good to feel empty; he's hungry but empty.
He hears the rain hit the field. He listens
for the mother, but he hears nothing. He climbs to his room,
the second floor, next to his brother's.
The father works late now; now it is night,
now time for bed. He opens the door
and discovers a secret. What is the secret?
He doesn't know, he doesn't know. His mother
lies there asleep on the bed, laid out in a field. The boy is tired,
why is she there? He touches her shoulder, shakes her gently
and calls her. Her face is relaxed, the shut eyes have grown younger.
Her hand curls around nothing, nesting the ghost of an egg.
She is tired and spent by the day. She is utterly spent,
hair undone, shirt loose; but she is dressed as she was
that very morning, as the sun warmed the kitchen
and the father walked out. The sunlight was silent.
Two white cups rested on the counter, still full of coffee,
a lactate skin slowly sealing the surface. The dry toast stiffened.
All the colors outside, the morning air rinsed by the light,
nourished the boy's hunger to be out in the world.

Now his mother dreams of walking
out in the world, she walks past her high school and sees her old friends.
She sits down to eat at her mother's kitchen table stretching out fully,
blueberries stewed, topped with sour cream. The bowl is
too small for so many berries, so much sour cream.
The sunlight rains down, it pours into the room.
She lowers her head and begins to eat like a cat.
Her mama's favorite cat, she feels herself
petted, she likes it like that.
The boy tries
to wake her, why won't she wake up?
She shouldn't sleep here, this isn't her bed.
He can see the large bed she shares with his father,
the sheets would be taut, the bedspread smoothed out,
tucked neatly under pillows white as two eggs.
The bed is made in its hunger; it's empty but hungry.
In her dream her legs feel like springs, they're tan
as if made of copper, she could walk forever
away from the house to have her adventure.

Why is she so tired, so alive and so still?
The mother is not a child to be sleeping in his bed.
This is his bed, where he dreams of adventure.
He is not the parent. Doesn't she know
it's his bedtime now? Of course, she must know.
His hand on her shoulder looks like a starfish.
Even her shoes wish to rouse her, still on her feet.
Time to wake up, he sings in her tune. You have to
wake up. The tree outside the window awakens
in the rain, the rain is a whisper, the boy is grown up.
Time to wake (time to sleep). The mother's in love.

—Joshua Weiner

Joshua Weiner is the author of The World's Room (Chicago). He was the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize Fellow in Literature at the American Academy in Rome in 2003–2004.

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