still sick/can’t breathe(sleep)/dream songs for the sleepless

Instructions for reading:  first, go over this once with your eyes only. Then, immediately, again, but this time out loud, slowly, slowly, resisting the urge to whisk through the ampersands. Pay careful attention to line breaks and commas. Pronounce all of the words with grand drawling poetic savour, but hold to your own voice through the end. Now again, this time deferring to the voice of the poem. Let the characters speak, listen to their rhythms. Which is Henry and which is Mr. Bones? I’m not sure I know myself, but listen to them anyway. Imagine the conversation between them. Pause, if you wish, to reflect on conversational poetry and poetic conversation. For your fourth reading, stand up, walk, move, hand-gesture. Allow the body to join the chorus. Listen to the way your heartbeat quickens at the end.

Repeat until the words have entered your bones.

Dream Song 77
John Berryman
Seedy Henry rose up shy in de world
& shaved & swung his barbells, duded Henry up
and p.a.’d poor thousands of persons on topics of grand
moment to Henry, ah to those less & none.
Wif a book of his in either hand
he is stript down to move on.

—Come away, Mr. Bones.

—Henry is tired of the winter,
& haircuts, & a squeamish comfy ruin-prone proud national
mind, Spring (in the city so called).
Henry likes Fall.
Hé would be prepared to li­ve in a world of Fall
for ever, impenitent Henry.
But the snows and summers grieve & dream;

these fierce & airy occupations, and love,
raved away so many of Henry’s years
it is a wonder that, with in each hand
one of his own mad books and all,
ancient fires for eyes, his head full
& his heart full, he’s making ready to move on.


~ by Not Alice on October 2, 2007.

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