A beach in hell

This entry is part 24 of 42 in the series Antiphony: Paul Zweig


I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the sixth poem in the third (“Eternity’s Woods”) section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading.

The Perfect Sleepers
by Paul Zweig

The light flooding my chair
Is too strong at six in the morning;
It was meant for the policeman prowling
In a room around a criminal…

[Remainder of poem removed 10-21-05]

* * * *

In the Hold

The sealed cracks around the permanently locked door between the two apartments were no barrier to the flood tide of her enormous need. I had seen them sitting outside until well past dark, his jeep riding considerably lower on the passenger side as they took turns drinking from a paper bag. They came in around ten & went straight to work – an all-night shift.

Sleep was impossible for me as well as for him. Every half hour, just as I started to doze off, her shrill voice would jerk us back to full consciousness: I haven’t seen you in three months, and you’re just going to SLEEP? He’d answer in a low murmur I couldn’t make out. Then the asthmatic creaks of her long-suffering box spring as she once again mounted the ladder that led – Oh dichosa ventura! – out of the dark hold of her hated flesh.

As the night dragged on, my annoyance gave way to admiration for her persistence & her unwillingness to abandon her partner to the vicissitudes of sleep. I knew well enough how the rungs of that ladder multiply toward the top, crowding more & more closely together until, inevitably, we lose our footing & fall back into ourselves: ragged breathing, the soaked sheets, dust mites swarming in the drifts of shed skin.

The Spanish quote (“oh happy chance!”) and the image of the ladder are from St. John of the Cross’s mystical poem La Noche Oscura, or The Dark Night.

Series Navigation← Too muchWhen it breaks →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.