Man Making the Bed

Man Making the Bed

Psalm after psalm into a dead sea of silence: they invite
their own enormous, endangered day. Scalded, lord,
by sunlight and the lizards watching, licking dust,


Psalm after psalm into a dead sea of silence: they invite
their own enormous, endangered day. Scalded, lord,
by sunlight and the lizards watching, licking dust,

he unfolds the fresh sheets: brisk sniff of laundry, white
as a field of Queen Anne’s lace. The word “linen”
comes to rest, a cleansing breath, and a big sail bellies

in the breeze he conjures, speaking its memory of flax and water,
acres of raw linen in the Low Countries or the black North
laid out like a waiting canvas, a picture-glimpse of heaven

with a few shriven women’s bodies adrift in it, dazzled
by its dear, old-world, breathing spaces. He billows the sheet
and a wondercloud swells in this small room, a huge

snow-ruffle drifting down, a tabernacle of cool white
rising in the desert. Here is the bed new made, and here
its play of flesh and spirit, unsettling themselves in bodies.

He is alone here, making the bed up, stopped
between the solidity of things as they are and the huge white peace
of the sheet-sail flapping from his hands for a matter of seconds

and subsiding, spread flat, its corners pointed
towards where she leans–half-dressed in memory,
one soft stroke of daylight streaking her spine–

to draw taut the sheet he’s holding the other side of
and they snap together, lay flat, tug it tight together
in what looks like a fullness of time and truth

and not plummeting asunder. Lying alone
between the sheets tonight, feeling the clean of them,
their white arms tight around him, he will dream

a wilderness of tents in moonlight: asleep,
they will be shivering a little, as if they felt the stars
press their chill rivets in, or the future

with red eyes whispering to rouse them.

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