Esme sometimes whispers to me in the dark, "Mommy, I'm scared. Protect me." I rock her and tell her in reassuring tones that the day and the night are exactly the same, and the morning light will reveal that.
But I will tell you the whole truth, one I can't express to her yet--I do think the night is a different from the daytime. I'd go so far as to say it's like different country sometimes. Not scary, but mysterious, secret. Being awake when the rest of your world sleeps around you is to feel like a fugitive from your regular life. After a long night like that, the next day surprises me with its normal rhythms. Doesn't it know my secret, nighttime life? Doesn't it see how different *I* am for having been awake so long?
Sleep-deprived, I wade through the day's routines, stopping from time to time to marvel at the difference the daylight makes. Sometimes I even feel as though the lack of sleep sharpens my feeling for the day, for its ordinariness.
A wonderful poem that evokes some of this is Debra Spencer's "Day Bath," from her collection Pomegranate. The last line in particular captures the feeling that resonates with me after a long night....
for my son
Last night I walked him back and forth,
his small head heavy against my chest,
round eyes watching me in the dark,
his body a sandbag in my arms.
I longed for sleep but couldn't bear his crying
so bore him back and forth until the sun rose
and he slept. Now the doors are open,
noon sunlight coming in,
and I can see fuchias opening.
Now we bathe. I hold him, the soap
makes our skins glide past each otehr.
I lay him wet on my thighs, his head on my knees,
his feet dancing against my chest,
and I rinse him, pouring water
from my cupped hand.
No matter how I feel, he's the same,
eyes expectant, mouth ready,
with his fat legs and arms,
his belly, his small solid back.
Last night I wanted nothing more
than to get him out of my arms.
Today he fits neatly
along the hollow my thighs make,
and with his fragrant skin against mine
I feel brash, like a sunflower.
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