Variations on the Word Between Waking and Sleeping

Photograph by Jose Padua
Because everyone in this house is
asleep and I am awake, I am the misfit,
chained to consciousness like a smoker
chained to tobacco, lifting cigarette to mouth
to drag the smoke in, letting it rest inside
as if trying out a dusty, old rug for the
bare space between the fireplace and
the dining room door, then deciding
it doesn’t work and exhaling it back
to the attic. I don’t smoke anymore,
but I am awake on my tilted back,
and my hands are holding a book
the way I used to hold smoke.
When I sleep I am still a misfit of my
impatient kind, making errors, interrupting
my breathing as I snore, or interrupting
my snoring when I forget briefly to breath
in my deep sleep. It’s the way I often forget
what I’ve read when my eyes start to close,
when the colors and all the tones in between
loosen from my fingers, the tight black letters
colliding in my eyes. I sit up, climbing my way
back to plot and chapter, to the poem
this sturdy house helps me write every night
beneath the shelter of its noisy tin roof.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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