by Abe Louise Young
(for Emily Joan)
Forget making your bed. Make your desk instead.
Let your bed sheets lie rumpled on the floor
with pillows underneath them
like elephants in the bellies of snakes,
with stuffed animals and a water glass
tipped over on top.
Forget the bed. Put the pages of your desk in order.
Line up the sheets from head to foot.
Smack the dust and grit off. Shelve the books.
Make your bet that what you’ve got to write might crack a boulder
like a light bulb, that a cone of butterflies will stream out,
that you could make a person you’ve never met
want to give birth through her eye sockets.
See those piles of old textbooks,
post-it notes, envelopes
with little plastic windows, job application folders,
nests of screws and nails and grommets,
empty condom packets, coupons for bulk soy milk?
Take it all and throw it out.
Would you sleep in that?
Dream at your desk, then work your mind
through its torque. Mime the regular simplicity
of milking a goat. Every day, twice.
Morning and night.
A squirt of hot goat’s milk
puddles in a metal pail with each gentle tweak
of your mind’s nipples.
If you don’t, the goat will cry.
Have you seen mastitis?
So milk the stream down, thin as silky thread.
Stir the cream slowly so it turns to butter,
then heat it to cheese,
add those herbs you’ve spent years growing
in cracked pots on the windowsill.
Memory sits down gratefully
like an old farmer
and takes off its weathered, sweaty cap.
Out of the sun, off the fields,
in your company. Put out a loaf of bread.
Put your head where your feet should be.
Hug the pillows to your chest.
Pretend you hold a body, soft, trusting,
someone who’s not going to leave at morning light.
These are your readers,
the ones you need, the ones you are lonely,
brittle, adrift without, the other mammals
full of feathers, like you,
who miss their mothers, like you,
are ringed round with zippers, like you,
indented and passive, like you. But not tonight.
The night is big and empty on your desk.
Touch blank paper with your fingertips.
The paper used to be trees; seed,
soil, water and sun, which used to be
your ancestors’ voices and breath
buried in light without a box.
They will lead you to your readers.
You might never know them,
you might die before they’re born.
But tonight, hold them tight.
Make the desk sprout leaves and sing.
Make it feel like a sapling.