Sleeping by an Open Window in October
I sleep like a child
curled over, without thought.
I sleep like my father,
wooded and caved
by the baby
Sleep is the dark inner eye
of the tulip.
It’s in the cat’s mouth.
I have it by the ear.
It wails but the wails
are silent and feel
like lambs wool.
I have gone to bed
and risen smiling.
Just think: the storm
is only stilled and calmed
a sleepy Christ,
his hair tousled,
curled like a fetus
in the boat’s curve.
The summer we had lice
Out on the porch the sun shining on our denim skirts on our hair one sister
kneeling the other cradling her head in her lap the dark hair slipping
between fingers and comb’s teeth the lice running from the sunshine winged
spotted a friend has pointed out to me and large much larger than you’d think
I have no memory of my mother in this scene I’m sure she was stewing tomatoes
sliding their bloody bodies out of their wrinkled skins busy, somehow it was
just us the sisters our long heads of hair at an average of a foot and a half per
sister that’s eighteen inches each although the youngest two were maybe three
and five years old only six or eight inches of hair all of it blonde the lice
running through it like summer gold the shampoo we used turned our hair to straw
we should have cut it off our mother should have helped why do I remember her not
helping? is this a truth? she had so many other things to do which is exactly
when abuse happens during normal morning hours in daylight someone
under someone else’s care or charge or power sitting there on those
cool cement steps the sunlight baking down warming our hair this was before
we could know that others lived off other people’s bodies: discovering a rich
and healthy landscape moving in lingering making it theirs
Author's note: I think frequently about the child's body in my poetry. Not just the body belonging to a child, but of how "adult" or grown bodies also contain the younger body—the child's memories, histories, relationships. Taking a woman-centered workshop with the poet Robyn Schiff opened my poetry up to thinking even more about women's bodies, and our bodily inheritances from our families and other people. The fact that we each exist among and with others--that even Christ gets woken up by needy humans.
Hannah lives and teaches in Durham, NC. She is currently at Duke University writing her dissertation on gender and collaboration poetics in the seventeenth century. She has poems recently published and forthcoming at Cotton Xenomorph, The McNeese Review, Unbroken Journal and Thrush. More at: hannahvanderhart.com