This Thing Called Sleep

You think, all your life you’d compared this thing to sleep,
Never knowing how blatantly wrong or empty
The comparision was until you saw her, her eyes
Like closed doors to empty rooms. Right now even goodbye
Feels empty in the face of this; it will never be enough
To relegate your sadness to these few mournful hours.

You’d gotten word in those early morning hours
When each phonecall belies a tragedy. Through the haze of sleep,
You tried to take it in, thinking you’d already had enough
Of pain this year, your heart unprepared and empty
For the trying days to come. You hung up with a curt goodbye,
Wiped sleep and the ghost of the past from your weary eyes.

Her mother, still like your own, watches from the corner of her eye,
Doting and concerned, even in her most vulnerable hours.
She stands by the door, offering warm greetings and gracious goodbyes
To the parade of visitors paying respects. You know she’s had no sleep,
Probably not for days, and tonight she must be running on empty.
Still she stops you, asks how you’ve been, if you’ve been eating enough.

By evening’s end, you’re sure you’ve had more than enough;
You can’t force another smile, shake another hand, look another man in the eye
And wonder if he was the one; if those nights when her side of the bed was empty,
She was gracing his sheets. It’s been years, but the sting is fresh; the hours
You spent, watching her sleep, wondering when she’d finally say her last goodbye –
Of course I know, you’d whisper; but you were dreaming too, and prefered to stay asleep.

As the mourner’s leave, her mother takes your arm, says she’d have trouble getting to sleep
In the empty house tonight; if you could stay, just on the couch, that would be enough.
She was your mother too, for so long; you can’t bring yourself to just say goodbye,
To tell her you need to be alone, to confront your demons, look them in the eye,
And make your peace. You take her hand, tell her not to worry. A few more hours,
You think, and then you’ll go; maybe by by the light of day, your bed won’t seem so empty.

Lying in the dark, you can hear her upstairs, crying. You keep your thoughts empty,
Playing old songs in your head, like a jukebox, just to put yourself to sleep.
When you open your eyes, you’re sure you’ve only been out a couple of hours,
But the light in the sky tells you it’s almost dawn. Part of you thinks, this isn’t enough;
There should be more ceremony, more tears; you can never look yourself in the eye
And feel right about moving on, when you resented her for so long for saying goodbye.

(There will be a room in your heart forever empty, though in time enough,
you will say goodbye. But behind your eyes, in those darkest hours,
her memory will stir you from the soundest sleep.)