Sleepless

In medianoche, they find themselves –
a father and his two children,
unable to sleep through the ever-
gathering heat of themselves –
sitting in their pants
round the kitchen table, a plastic flagon
of fridge-cold water emptying
before their eyes. There is something
secretive meeting like this –
the children’s naked chests
brushing the table’s edge, as upstairs
their mother sleeps on,
wound in her tangle of sheets.
Though, whatever the secret is,
it remains unspoken, shared
like a scent of hilltop thyme.
If, that is, a scent could be seen
through a film of sleep -
in the way, just say, the boy had earlier
watched his sister from below the surface
of the pool, as she wind-milled
into water, hair flaring
above her, the water giving her
the graceful movements
of the dancer she is. Moments later,
he had popped up, raising goggles, wiping eyes.
How did I look? she’d asked. How did I look?

They sit composed now, slightly slumped,
sculpted by the kitchen light, as the moon
gives shape to the olive trees, the stones
in the fields, the fallen almonds. They are a family,
once all activity has been stripped from them.
And they sit, mostly in silence, sifting through
this air, this love, the faintest scent of thyme.


first published in Sparks! (Mariscat, 2005), from In The Becoming - New and Selected Poems (Polygon, 2009), © Tom Pow 2005, used by permission of the author

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