Wednesday, May 16, 2012

late at night in bed

© 2012 Amber Schley Iragui
It is two o'clock in the morning, and I lie awake watching the newly leafy branches outside our bedroom window. It is warm, the windows are open, and my 17-month-old daughter is giggling in her bed. I can hear the rustle of trees and the sound of traffic on the Henry Hudson Highway far below us. My husband lies beside me, snoring. Above me the sound of a chair scrapes the floor, then thump thump thump as one of the students in the apartment over ours, a late-night studier, walks across the room. The mirror on our wall replies to his step: stsss stsss stsss. The quiet around me—however far from silence—is yet tender and provident.

Genevieve's surgery is two days away. My little night-giggler will have tubes put in both her ears and an adenoidectomy. They are both routine surgeries, and the hospital and doctor are excellent, but I am anxious all the same.

The clichés about being a parent are sadly all true, particularly the one about the days being long and the years being short. No matter that I am an instinctive ponderer, given over to thinking about the meanings of things and winding significance around myself: my days still seem indistinct, and one moment's blur of meaning lost into the next. The regular noises of my day—the elevator's rumbling cables, the downstairs neighbor's afternoon rock-radio programs, the Yeshiva students' rowdy Friday Shabbat dinners, not to mention the din my own children create—are rarely noted except in complaint. I long for quiet moments in which to make sense of it all, only to find that when such moments come, I want instead to sleep. Or click listlessly about the internet.

It is only now, awake at two o'clock in the morning, that the hallowed-ness of it all strikes me. How fragile this quiet, these simple nighttime noises, how easily shattered by anxiety and discord. And how hard-won, too. But won, truly, in this moment. Wrapped around us a protection, call it love, or call it or grace. We are recipients of a great gift—not only our own life, but life of this thing we make together. A family.

I pray our daughter's surgery goes well. And I get up, all the same, and check to make sure the front door is locked.

L A T E   A T   N I G H T   I N   B E D
by Gregory Djanikian 

My wife tells me she hears a beetle   
Scurrying across the kitchen floor.   
She says our daughter is dreaming   

Too loudly, just listen, her eyelids   
Are fluttering like butterflies.

What about the thunder, I say,
What about the dispatches from the police car   
Parked outside, or me rolling over like a whale?

She tells me there’s a leaf falling
And grazing the downstairs window,
Or it could be glass cutters, diamonds,
Thieves working their hands toward the latch.   
She tells me our son is breathing too quickly,   
Is it pneumonia, is it the furnace
Suddenly pumping monoxides through the house?

So when my wife says sleep, she means   
A closing of the eyes, a tuning   
Of the ears to ultra frequencies.

(It is what always happens
When there are children, the bed   
Becoming at night a listening post,   
Each little ting forewarning disaster.)

Downstairs there is the sound
Of something brushing against something else   
And I try to listen as my wife might listen,   
Insects, I say, dust on a table top,
Maybe a knife’s edge against the palm.

But she tells me it’s only
The African violet on the windowsill   
Putting out another flower,
And falls luxuriously into a dream   
Of being awake and vigilant.

So the house grows noisier,
There are clicks in the woodwork,   
There are drips, raps, clunks, things   
To make sense of, make benign.

My son and daughter are sleeping calmly,   
And the stairs, yes, are creaking,
The wind, I think, or maybe two men,   
Where’s the beaker of acid,
The bowling ball, the war hoop
I learned in second grade?

So this is what it’s like when there’s
No one left but you to love and defend.

Outside there are cats in a fight
And they remind me too much of babies crying.   
Then the bottle thrown against the stoop,   
The sound of something delicate shattered.

My wife stirs, Be glad, she says,
Sound doesn’t carry far, that you don’t hear   
The whole of it, cries in the night,
Children in other cities, hurts, silences.

And she’s right, I can’t hear the whole of it,   
Or else I hear too much and it’s noise   
Or I make it noise because it’s too much.

So I begin homing in on something
Around me, something distinct, my wife’s   
Breathing, a window’s rattle. Outside,
Grass is lengthening in the dark,
And sap running up the phloem of the maple,
(Do I hear it? And how the stars must be wheeling!)   
And in the far room, my children’s
Hearts are keeping time, for them, for us
Who have begun to listen in earnest.

From Falling Deeply into America. Copyright © 1989 by Gregory Djanikian. 

{ more poetry wednesday }


Kate said...

Although I can't offer a parental perspective, I had tubes as a kid, and they hugely improved my quality of life after years of chronic ear infections. I can still remember (and wish I didn't) the particular heat and pain of a burst eardrum. Best wishes for a smooth and speedy recovery for Genevieve.

Manuela said...

I pray that the surgery goes well.
Lukas had surgery when he was one, and I was very anxious, too.
I will say a prayer for you as well.

Mark Janssen said...

You will be glad of getting the adenoids out and the tubes in, and so will she. A little anxiety is not something to worry about. (Excuse the recursive logic.)

Julia said...

Prayers for little Genevieve. Your writing here is really nice, Amber.