Margaret Holley: “Nocturne”



Now that the early November evenings whirl us

     into their lunar chill,

          crickets give up their incessant creaking

and let the quiet of winter grip the trees.


The house keeps its small box of air calm,

     so your body can embark on the inland sea,

          set sail on the quiet waters of dreams

you can wake from without drowning.


How do you find your way home by morning?

     How do you reach a shore

          that lifts you up from the bottomless

waters of sleep?  Every night you’ve


left the shape of your body in a day’s clothes

     that wilted immediately without you.

          Every night you’ve cloaked yourself in

a mountain landscape of sheets and blankets.


You contain miles—cities, outskirts, prairies,

     amplitudes you must visit alone, as a stranger.

          Do we sleep differently when leaves are

floating down past our windows,


rain filling their tiny hulls, sinking them into heaps,

     softening them into sodden meal?

          Do we sleep in spring as if we were

already waking, ready to leap up?


You have breathed darkness in and out

     every spring and every autumn since birth,

          and when the leaves are finally down,

the branches bare, and you are


down for good, a spirit in you will still

     be signaling, “Look!  Moonlight is pouring in!

        And I am climbing toward it, into it,

becoming it—undressed and new.”


Margaret Holley’s fifth book of poems is Walking Through the Horizon (University of Arkansas Press).  Her work has appeared in Poetry, Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, and many other journals.  Former director of Bryn Mawr College’s Creative Writing Program, she currently serves as a docent at Winterthur Museum.

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