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Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair In The Moonlight Analysis

Author: poem of Galway Kinnell Type: poem Views: 12

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You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk

into your room, and pick you up,

and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me


as if clinging could save us. I think

you think

I will never die, I think I exude

to you the permanence of smoke or stars,

even as

my broken arms heal themselves around you.


I have heard you tell

the sun, don't go down, I have stood by

as you told the flower, don't grow old,

don't die. Little Maud,

I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,

I would suck the rot from your fingernail,

I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,

I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,

I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,

I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,

I would let nothing of you go, ever,

until washerwomen

feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,

and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,

and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,

and iron twists weapons toward the true north,

and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,

and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,

and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the

dark, O corpse-to-be ...

And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,

this the nightmare you wake screaming from:

being forever

in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.


In a restaurant once, everyone

quietly eating, you clambered up

on my lap: to all

the mouthfuls rising toward

all the mouths, at the top of your voice

you cried

your one word, caca! caca! caca!

and each spoonful

stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering



you cling because

I, like you, only sooner

than you, will go down

the path of vanished alphabets,

the roadlessness

to the other side of the darkness,

your arms

like the shoes left behind,

like the adjectives in the halting speech

of old men,

which once could call up the lost nouns.


And you yourself,

some impossible Tuesday

in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out

among the black stones

of the field, in the rain,

and the stones saying

over their one word, ci-gît, ci-gît, ci-gît,

and the raindrops

hitting you on the fontanel

over and over, and you standing there

unable to let them in.


If one day it happens

you find yourself with someone you love

in a café at one end

of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar

where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,

and if you commit then, as we did, the error

of thinking,

one day all this will only be memory,


as you stand

at this end of the bridge which arcs,

from love, you think, into enduring love,

learn to reach deeper

into the sorrows

to come – to touch

the almost imaginary bones

under the face, to hear under the laughter

the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss

the mouth

which tells you, here,

here is the world
. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.


In the light the moon

sends back, I can see in your eyes

the hand that waved once

in my father's eyes, a tiny kite

wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:

and the angel

of all mortal things lets go the string.


Back you go, into your crib.

The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.

Your eyes close inside your head,

in sleep. Already

in your dreams the hours begin to sing.

Little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,

when I come back

we will go out together,

we will walk out together among

the ten thousand things,

each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages

of dying is love


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