It's Like This


Each morning the man rises from bed because the invisible

      cord leading from his neck to someplace in the dark,

      the cord that makes him always dissatisfied,

      has been wound tighter and tighter until he wakes.


He greets his family, looking for himself in their eyes,

      but instead he sees shorter or taller men, men with

      different degrees of anger or love, the kind of men

      that people who hardly know him often mistake

      for him, leaving a movie or running to catch a bus.


He has a job that he goes to. It could be at a bank

      or a library or turning a piece of flat land

      into a ditch. All day something that refuses to

      show itself hovers at the corner of his eye,

      like a name he is trying to remember, like

      expecting a touch on the shoulder, as if someone

      were about to embrace him, a woman in a blue dress

      whom he has never met, would never meet again.

      And it seems the purpose of each day’s labor

      is simply to bring this mystery to focus. He can

      almost describe it, as if it were a figure at the edge

      of a burning field with smoke swirling around it

      like white curtains shot full of wind and light.


When he returns home, he studies the eyes of his family to see

      what person he should be that evening. He wants to say:

      All day I have been listening, all day I have felt

      I stood on the brink of something amazing.

      But he says nothing, and his family walks around him

      as if he were a stick leaning against a wall.


Late in the evening the cord around his neck draws him to bed.

      He is consoled by the coolness of sheets, pressure

      of blankets. He turns to the wall, and as water

      drains from a sink so his daily mind slips from him.

      Then sleep rises before him like a woman in a blue dress,

      and darkness puts its arms around him, embracing him.

      Be true to me, it says, each night you belong to me more,

      until at last I lift you up and wrap you within me.


by Stephen Dobyns

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1 Response Mar 10, 2009

What is your cord made of? I will have to ponder what mine is for a bit longer. Great Poem. Thanks for sharing Sahira.