Sleep Learning (2015-02-16)

Sleep Learning (2015-02-16)

For a Student Sleeping in a Poetry Workshop

I've watched his eyelids sag, spring open

   Vaguely and gradually go sliding

      Shut again, fly up

With a kind of drunken surprise, then wobble

   Peacefully together to send him

      Home from one school early. Soon his lashes

Flutter in REM sleep. I suppose he's dreaming

   What all of us kings and poets and peasants

      Have dreamed: of not making the grade,

Of draining the inexhaustible horn cup

   Of the cerebral cortex where ganglions

      Are ganging up on us with more connections

Than atoms in heaven, but coming up once more

   Empty. I see a clear stillness

      Settle over his face, a calming of the surface

Of water when the wind dies. Somewhere

   Down there, he's taking another course

      Whose resonance (let's hope) resembles

The muttered thunder, the gutter bowling, the lightning

   Of minor minions of Thor, the groans and gurgling

      Of feral lovers and preliterate Mowglis, the songs

Of shamans whistled through bird bones. A worried neighbor

   Gives him the elbow, and he shudders

      Awake, recollects himself, brings back

His hands from aboriginal outposts,

   Takes in new light, reorganizes his shoes,

      Stands up in them at the buzzer, barely recalls

His books and notebooks, meets my eyes

   And wonders what to say and whether to say it,

      Then keeps it to himself as today's lesson.

(From Collected Poems by David Wagoner) © Ken Stange 2012-2015