Size / / /

"A right to normal sleep of the night's season."

He made this claim for children after years

in a world that skimped on sound slumber and care:

an orphanage of the unwanted, labeled feeble-minded.

Pleas, please. How did they say their prayers?

A chance to rest, free from nightmares, unmolested.

A respite from drab days, a fugitive route, or

a tense wait for dawn to return? In that institution,

the night's season loomed long, interminable to children.

Sleep descended from exhaustion after a day's labor,

the warehoused rows of young victims, whimpering.

Nil, nix. How did you dream in a red brick asylum?

Escape is food for survival. You write an epic about odd

heroines who fight and suffer. With collage and imagination,

you picture it, years of devotion, for salvation, not lucre.

You keep your alternate world secret, easy when your life

is bound by the same servile job, daily mass, small room—

decades of routine. Your legacy: notebooks and drawings.

Eccentric, outlandish. How did you sleep, Henry?

Moss grows everywhere, fragile and resilient,

able to flourish with little light and no attention.

City boy, did moss give direction, as you returned

to Chicago, where you locked the door and raveled

legions alone? Ruler of the unreal, disguised as a nobody.




Pat Tompkins is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems have appeared in Astropoetica, flashquake, Mayfly, and other publications. She is the author of Stars and How to Be an Olympic Athlete.
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