Saturday, February 12, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part I

it's four fifty in the morning and i'm thinking about what television show episodes might work well to read through in a group of friends and amateur thespians--deadwood, full house, the a-team, seinfeld, the care bears, south park? i'm thinking about life's riddle of boy-meeting-girl and the whirligig revolving doors of relationships that i see around me. i'm thinking about queequeg and the curious act of filing one's teeth to sharp, needle-like points.*

it's five o'clock and i'm wishing i were asleep, trying to sleep, desperately attempting to convince my brain to turn off the lights and shut-in for the night. it's five past five, and my mind seizes on some strange dream-logic for finding sleep: if i breathe slower, sleep will come. if i breathe slower but move this hand from my thigh to beneath my head, where it's not so hot, not so buried in covers, sleep will come. but only if i roll over first. if i imagine myself gently patting the head of a duck seven times, sighing peaceably, and then repeat the scene in my head ad infinitum, sleep will come.

i think then about the word repeat, an inelegant slamming of syllables that seems to carry the weight of its meaning in the prefix. there's no poetry to the word, no reason to fashion an ode after the movement from re to peat. my attention to this word is as meaningless and arbitrary and useless as the ritual of the duck. 

but the word gets caught in my craw, which i imagine as my mouth, as a great gaping space of teeth and tongue and red tissue where ideas bang about, where the trick is to bite down hard at just the right moment and to stop the idea, to sever its head from its body and to snap its larynx so that it can't persist in its cruel quacking hum. the trick is to kill it dead. but the word is caught in my craw, not my mouth, and i remember that one's craw is one's stomach and that the stomach is a squirrelly nest of intestines, which, if you unravel and lay out upon the carpet and linoleum of your home, may stretch from your bed to the refrigerator and back again, just enough distance to snag a late-night snack, a pre-dawn beer, but in the body that distance is all snug up on itself, all bunched together so that what takes a moment to walk can take a lifetime to digest--a lifetime of strange body chemicals and duodenal juice, a lifetime of night.

the word, the idea behind the word, is caught there, and i can't get it out. i need an antacid or a surgeon. i need an exorcist. 

i try to think of a bible verse with the word repeat, a holy phrase that i could say as a sort of bedtime mass, a way to force god's merciful hand through the steady repetition of repetition itself. if i say the right words at the right time, i think, i will receive grace. i cannot believe otherwise. sleep has become for me a works-based faith.




to be continued...

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

*queequeg is the harpooner who ishmael sleeps with in the opening chapters of herman melville's moby-dick

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