Poem by Nikki-Lee Birdsey 

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 I just want to sleep forever

             I. Ditmas Loose

I just want to sleep forever

and listen to you read books
over the internet. 

I just want to sleep forever, lobby light
on all night in this sick-bed, outside.
Dawn hatches scot-free love, the hills
wait, rogue lambs bleat and disappear
like sea foam over my left shoulder, it
itches, it bleeds, 

what novel are you reading––
I called and you were out in the soft then
hard gravity. Deep honeysuckle. 
Here, a sip, feel better, I’m glad you’re here,

what novel are you reading––
I told you. Leaving tomorrow. Do you
remember when in that pause of not
knowing that sick cry of wind, 
you remember the wire fence and the
pregnant woman sunning in the empty pool? 
That day was bright, that blindness,
my fingers split on the side of the trailer you––

said a nation wants a
a nation wants a notion
a nation wants a–– 
                         The long distant
moment in undiminished clarity
clear as a polished jar. Will you look
outside at the pretty sky, at the pretty sea, 
at the pretty garden, at the door though
it doesn’t open? No, no, outside is hell
inside is hell. 

No, no what novel are you reading.

Arable parable to myth-truths, this
transpersonal mission, this just
the glitter of distraction, or a snapshot
of Benjamin’s favourite sewer
has nothing to do with a raven
on the tip of the wave, the sweep
and shrug of tide; the lines float strange
angles in the light of what I look like, 
my shadow. Aren’t you worried? 
Your mother has a death sentence
she has 35 years left to live     
what’s my sentence,
what’s my        look back       and see          it all
vice free. We run from the trailer
through high fields to the tree line, 
my fingers bleeding red allover the pale purple
folds of my teenage school skirt, 
                           how we co-
inhaled that day, you shrieked:
“Finn no more!” off the cliffs
and I thought you would fall, as in
when the right hand takes
what the left already knows. 

We left and the water fell slow. 
We jumped so hard
off the waterfall's edge. It’s not about
the opal pools paralyzing. We found
a beer can and crushed it, I dove for it, 
I felt it cut through my feet, 
the sand was sticky as muddy voices,
it was deep enough. 

Golden youth stories
dissolving even still as the city shines
through the night. I can see in the
glassy reflections the windhover’s
house we made: how I repeated birdcalls,
call me some names, call me names
             but you already have so many
your heart is in the system of––
when easy still meant free,
when the still stalk bent backwards
how it cricked in the wind
like it was alive. 

As if you were
still here with me.



               II. Returned Site O––

                         The cliff glints
in view, no layer of dirt thick
enough for what I am, vandal, 
what I thought tending the
summer of glass corroding its
sweetness––even the air is pricked
with dark sap; my hip is pounced
on, my jarring blonde, no fabric
deep enough

what novel are you reading––
what he saw in those last hours, 
a sunset, a night, a dawn.

Transpallid renderings of omitted
structures, the blood husks of them
in mind, do you?
Detonate the basin, detonate the
coastal shards that move through:
they are not living, but they are living.
It drains what meager mineral content
you have left in the living room
the size of the afternoon. Outside the rabbits
humping, co-inhabiting the flat, brown
circles of the yard so easily: you see for me
the lorry that killed Winfried Georg Sebald
killed me too. 

              I just want to sleep forever––
              see the end of

              Caves lit with blue
glowworms, blue penguins scurry-
glide away from dogs. At the beach
the bush recedes as I watch
from the deck, the blue fields
take over from distance,
and there are some fat horses
that nobody touched but
I could touch them
beyond the tree line
if I closed my eyes. 
Are these not all apparitions
that mirror the southern sky
in the return of Saturn? There’s a
limit, but I found it, and found––

Roll the rocks like giant wheels.



              III. Nella Selva Nera

All blacks fade to punctured greys. 
I eat and drink on Sunday to remind
me of my home, dry lavender soda and
granny smiths. I eat like a child, alternately
cautious and mindless, I glance back, 
periodically, wanting to make sure. 
I record the rain's arc, the building
pressure then isolated; drip on the
screen, drip on the sill, drip on the book.
The pavement is coming for me. 
The duped whole of me. 

Latent birth in trilling morning, 
inexorable grenadine spilled allover
my current berth. Content to life, 
I will shrink wrap a snail to prove
local coherence, I will madden your
softness even out of the gaze
in the mirror; yourself looking at you
so tenderly, nightly, your frank

The sea gone entirely is picked
up in the rain. The cease and flow
of some dark flock in my brain––
sing back through the bottom, 
how strange the drenched grass
still moves and caresses, quaking,
how the dusk erases the bed stains; 
if this is fading, you are fading
through the veil of briars and fallen sticks. 

Embarrassed by my desire I touch
the parts I love, numb bells of
early spring daffodils, ha ha how
water like so many pills inching slowly
down a stem, then slopping quick
into everything, nothing, that’s
a walk-through for you, how many
pages one can be on. The lefty
morning rises, all the misremembered
verses are still memories. I lower
my chin to the breastbone, cold
and smooth, 2002 following 2001, 
confusing millennial
I am a part of—

Capitalist design practice
or life as multi-disciplinary moment
to moment, the scraped goat sucker
poised for denial of this my century’s
nella selva nera as mute as
my own pronunciation. 
Look how the travel narrative
devolves when I visit a mad person in
elegiac frames of mind.     

Portuguese Cities

              At a time like this
speaking to a man, you must
domesticate your emotions and  
acoustics that allow you
to hear that you are finally
saying something that gleams
because mine is an environment
in which intensities of sound, scream, timbre
and talk are blurred. The downward
movement of organs or words means
they must be pierced to find
the light that suspends darkness. 

             Do I end this madness
by me ending in madness, do we
find these parts of speech. 

It is now I alone standing stooped
in our legend’s garden, the camellias
rotting on the driveway; their browning,
their bruises, still beauties amidst
an awareness of brushing fields from
where my own windy steps only echo
fainter, fainter, then only the small
salt edges of the low ferns shudder.
The last of it, dizzy wages
in burnt provincialism.
Now, I take the heat out of the hand, 
the civics form rings around
the dove-grey doves, 
the song that glows is happily
split into my twenty-five-year-old
indifference, the listless acoustic
strumming from a distant year
now my own monotone, disfigured. 



                   IV. Built

I walk past the Polish Statue
that holds two swords crossed in an
X over his little head atop his
diminished 13th-century body. The last
Polish King united so much of
Europe, what reimagining sought
this unlikely pose? What histrionic
extrapolation, mason-object or
light’s purview of man that
clutches a plastic bag full of
random pieces: this country, 
that country, his land, his red
cedar-clad hunting hall. 
What do I imagine he sees
as he looks out, arms
raised with the two swords of
his enemies crossed. The smell
of blood and men in drenched rags,
the peasant with no armor, the horses
with pierced bellies, a lone torso, 
or just a great mist rising over
a stinking battlefield obscuring
the dead in a chthonic balm.

So many possibilities for the
Polish Statue in Central Park,
I imagine it falling into the nearby
pond, how heavy that small man
is and how light he’d be under water.

Still, what novel are you––

this mote-laden period of time
that undergoes change no longer
clinging to personal history &
personalities. I asked me
what do you think about, in terms
of imagery, when you are ill?
I think of pools of water
behind waterfalls, opal-streaked,
in some concurrent hour your
death is passed over to death
and the sky is ticked with
burning wires. 

Now, everything
is cellular, but not even I can
make everything abstract.



            V.  Phosphorus

Back in the country phenomena
respond to my memory. I sit
in a room with all the windows open. 
I hear bouts of accented radio from
passing cars, I hear the sounds
of birds unseen for so many years.
I walk around the garden: the
lavender, the honeysuckle, the
daisy-scented air, specified. 
The wet grass brings back
the impossible, the lost afternoons. 
My adult present has no reaction but
my latent, my eyes, can barely
believe it, to answer it, 
that space that lingers
slow and always.

Is it the nicotine in the aubergine, 
the trace amounts of toxic that
kill and revive your podium at least
for a second. 
What novel are you reading—
you can’t return your breath. 
I dedicate this milieu to you, freely.
Jostle the ice floes, don’t put your
face so close to the blood
of the mutable, of the outlier, 
of the dead. Still, 
dawn spills a few grey scales
on your questions.

Take this where? Twinning
trees cut it off, space it
out          make each thought slip
away from its proof that it is in
the world.
                Look how pretty this useless
thing is                my cat son

I am from the sun. 

This is a just cause, 
this is a long pause
called night. 

I just want to sleep forever. 



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