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Entered in the Ledger of Night

Entered in the Ledger of Night
by John W. Sexton

That night, sleepless, she stood at her window
and counted the stars.
She counted all across the sky
until her mind was lost in numbers,
and so lost in numbers was she
that she retired to her bed and fell asleep deeply.

When day came she woke up.
She knew that now
there was nothing in the sky to count
so she went into the bathroom to wash.
In the mirror she saw that she was numberless,
numberless in the sense
that her hair had melted in the night.

Her head was smooth and pale,
her armpits and her groin were bare.
She lifted her arms
and triumphed at the look of herself.
Her body was all puddles of flesh,
all of them bound in tight, not one of them able to splash.

And that night, sleepless,
she stood again at her window
and counted the stars.
In the morning her skin was all velvet,
as soft as the pelt of a bee.

And that night, sleepless,
she stood again at her window
and counted the stars.
In the morning she was covered all over in fur,
even to the palms of her hands,
even to the soles of her feet.
Her footfall was soundless,
her steps a subtle burr.

She was enormous in all of the rooms of her house,
filled up the hallway,
softly buffing the walls as she passed.

And that night, sleepless,
she stood again at her window
and counted the stars;
but now she was as dark as the night,
and the night seemed the essence of her body.
In the morning the house had burst away,
bricks and timbers scattered,
for she was as round as a hill.
She tucked in her legs and her arms
and she rolled to the sea.
The sea took to her at once
and she floated away through its wastes.

And that night, sleepless,
again she counted the stars,
but so big was she now
that the sky seemed closer than ever.
She perceived that the stars seemed upon her,
all over her breasts and her belly,
all down the arms and legs of her,
but she counted and counted
until waking or sleeping seemed one and the same
and the stars were uncountable upon her.

* * *

John W. Sexton lives in the Republic of Ireland and is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent being The Offspring of the Moon, which was published by Salmon Poetry in 2013. He created and wrote the science-fiction comedy-drama, The Ivory Tower, for RTÉ radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002.  Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O’Brien Press:The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records. He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem The Green Owl won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. In 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

When I was a young child I got the notion, I’m not quite sure how it began, that the headboard on my bed was sending me dreams whenever I slept. The headboard in those long-ago days of the first remembered house of my childhood was wooden and rectangular; it had a beveled frame along all four sides. In some way I think it resembled a television in my childish mind, and perhaps it was this association which inspired that first notion. Anyway, this idea that the headboard contained dreams began to take hold and I remember that on some nights I’d pull the bed away from the wall so that I could examine the back of the headboard itself. It was then that I discovered dust mites in disparate herds roaming across its dusty, neglected dark side. Instead of being repelled by them I was fascinated, and imbued in them a sort of guardianship. I imagined they were the carriers of dreams, crawling into me when I slept. I never crushed them beneath my thumb as I saw my younger brother do. I imagined further that they’d carry no dreams to him. I think it is still something so small, secretive and seemingly insignificant as a dust mite that continues to stir in my mind. I see them often here on my desk as I write, or crawling along the edges of my books. I rarely dust my office and have no desire that anyone do this on my behalf. What keeps me writing is an agitation in the mind, like an allergen. I am now so sensitized by it that my imagination fires continually under its bombardment, regardless of whether I am asleep now or awake. I can offer no answer to what keeps me inspired other than this, as strange or as unsatisfactory as some might imagine it to be.


Lorraine said...

Wonderful imagery in this poem--really enjoyed it. I have a headboard too on my bed--so that's where my ideas come from!