Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rules of Sleep by Howard Moss

Rules of Sleep

In the sludge drawer of animals in arms,
Where the legs entwine to keep the body warm
Against the winter night, some cold seeps through -
It is the future: say, a square of stars
In the windowpane, suggesting the abstract
And large, or a sudden shift in position
That lets one body know the other's free to move
An inch away, and then a thousand miles,
And, after that, even intimacy
Is only another form of separation.

This poem gives a variety of vivid images of the scene. I am not sure what the 'sludge drawer' reference is supposed to mean, however, the poem gets gradually more interesting moving back and forth from the abstract to the literal. The last two lines seemed especially powerful:

And, after that, even intimacy
Is only another form of separation.

This poem takes the idea a totally different direction at the end than would be expected. The notion of the two bodies holding each other "legs entwined" in order to keep warm in the cold night, I am going to stretch in interpretation into the cold night being a metaphor for the darker moments of life. To follow this metaphor, I would interpret the poem as describing people providing companionship for one another through a 'cold night' or rather, a moment of emotional weakness, or a dark time in their individual lives. In this manner, we could say that this sort of bond is emotionally the closest bond possible, and even intimacy would be another form of separation.


Blogger Fr. Todd Scull said...

The poem is centered around the irony of the line "...even intimacy/is only another form of separation".
Two people together in bed, but they are likened to unpaired items thrown together in a "sludge drawer", or a place where unmatched things go, the repository of loose ends one finds and can't find where to put them (everything has a place). The imagery of "animals in arms" suggests the instinctual nature of finding closeness to fend off the "winter night"; each seeks the other for "warmth"--it is the survival of those who have no place to go, no one to pair up with, and the speaker in the poem has just realized this. The "square of stars/In the windowpane" is the occasion for this epiphany. Within the frame, the stars appear so close, but the speaker realizes that they are billions of miles away. This image of the stars becomes a metaphor for the relationship: appearing so close (in bed "entwined") while actually being so far. Physical proximity and intimacy are two different things; you might have one without the other--another mismatched situation.

7:00 AM  

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