From “A long—long Sleep—A famous—Sleep—”by Emily Dickinson
A long—long Sleep—A famous—Sleep—
That makes no show for Morn—
By Stretch of Limb—or stir of Lid—
An independent One—
Was ever idleness like This?
Upon a Bank of Stone
To bask the Centuries away—
Nor once look up—for Noon?
From “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy For Ever” by John Keats
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
From “Aerialist” by Victoria Hallerman
Her life is the wire—she can never come down.
Sometimes she stops and sits on it to eat,
even sleeps there, her whole body stretched
as the wire is stretched. In sleep
she keeps her balance,
feet curled like a monkey’s
the habit of grasping:
She has never fallen.
From “At Night” by Sara Teasdale
Oh, are you asleep, or lying awake, my lover?
Open your dreams to my love and your heart to my words.
I send you my thoughts—the air between us is laden,
My thoughts fly in at your window, a flock of wild birds.
From “Ballad” by Sonia Sanchez
once. what does it matter
when or who, i knew
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away
From “Bedtime Story” by Wanda Coleman
the bed sucks me sideways into it when i
sit down on it to put on my shoes. this
persistence on its part forces me to dress in
the bathroom where things are less subversive
From “Bedtime Story” by Wanda Coleman
bed calls. i sit in the dark in the living room
trying to ignore them
in the morning, especially Sunday mornings
it will not let me up. you must sleep
longer, it says
From “The Blade of Nostalgia” by Chase Twitchell
In children, the quality of darkness
changes inside the sleeping mouth,
and the ghost of child-grime—
that infinite smudge of no color—
blows off into the afterlife.
From “Centaur Song” by H.D.
Now that the day is done,
now that the night creeps soft
and dims the chestnut clusters’
radiant spike of flower,
O sweet, till dawn
break through the branches
of our orchard garden,
rest in this shelter
of the osier-wood and thorn.
From “Churchgoing” by Marilyn Nelson
I, too, am wavering on the edge of sleep,
and ask myself again why I have come
to probe the ruins of this dying cult.
I come bearing the cancer of doubt
as superstitious suffering women come
to touch the magic hem of a saint’s robe.
From “For K.J., Leaving and Coming Back” by Marilyn Hacker
I cook things you don’t like. Sometimes I fall
asleep, book open, one A.M., sometimes
I long for you all night in Provencal
or langue d’oc, or wish I could, when I’m
too much awake. My early walk, my late
walk mark the day’s measures like rhyme.
From “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti
Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other’s wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall’n snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest
From “Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom” by Dorothy Parker
Though I go in pride and strength,
I’ll come back to bed at length.
Though I walk in blinded woe,
Back to bed I’m bound to go.
High my heart, or bowed my head,
All my days but lead to bed.
Up, and out, and on; and then
Ever back to bed again,
Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall-
I’m a fool to rise at all!
From “Little Lion Face” by May Swenson
Strange feral flower asleep
with flame-ruff wilted,
all magic halted,
a drink I pour, steep
in the glass for your
undulant stem to suck.
From “Little Match Box” by Tess Gallagher
And if there were two moons,
who would sleep when one
passed before the other
and took it in
on its dark side? Wouldn’t
some extra light ray out
around the sustaining one?
Wouldn’t you sense
the two in one, even if you’d
never seen them parted?
From “Lullaby for the Cat” by Elizabeth Bishop
Minnow, go to sleep and dream,
Close your great big eyes;
Round your bed Events prepare
The pleasantest surprise
Darling Minnow, drop that frown,
Not a kitten shall be drowned
In the Marxist State.
Joy and Love will both be yours,
Minnow don’t be glum.
Happy days are coming soon—
Sleep, and let them come…
From “Monna Innominata [I dream of you, to wake]” by Christina Rossetti
I dream of you, to wake: would that I might
Dream of you and not wake but slumber on;
Nor find with dreams the dear companion gone,
As, Summer ended, Summer birds take flight.
In happy dreams I hold you full in night.
From “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop
Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool
on bushes in a pasture
The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
From “Questions of Travel” by Elizabeth Bishop
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
From “San Antonio” by Naomi Shihab Nye
Tonight I lingered over your name,
the delicate assembly of vowels
a voice inside my head.
You were sleeping when I arrived.
I stood by your bed
and watched the sheets rise gently.
I knew what slant of light
would make you turn over.
From “Sleep is supposed to be” by Emily Dickinson
Sleep is supposed to be
By souls of sanity
The shutting of the eye.
Sleep is the station grand
Down which, on either hand
The hosts of witness stand!
Morn is supposed to be
By people of degree
The breaking of the Day.
Morning has not occurred!
That shall Aurora be—
East of Eternity—
One with the banner gay—
One in the red array—
That is the break of Day!
From “The Sleeping Fury” by Louise Bogan
Beautiful now as a child whose hair, wet with rage and
Clings to its face. And now I may look upon you,
Having once met your eyes. You lie in sleep and forget
Alone and strong in my peace, I look upon you in yours.
From “Sleeping Standing up” by Elizabeth Bishop
As we lie down to sleep the world turns half away
through ninety dark degrees;
the bureau lies on the wall
and thoughts that were recumbent in the day
rise as others fall,
stand up and make a forest of thick-set trees.
From “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by Anne Sexton
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
And lay down, at last, to sleep.
The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin. They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes. It’s a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
From “The Hermit Goes Up Attic” by Maxine Kumin
…If it was bushels he risked,
he would have set his sons to rake them ankle deep
for wintering over, for wrinkling off their husks
while downstairs he lulled his jo to sleep.
From “The Poem as Mask” by Muriel Rukeyser
There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my tom life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
beside me among the doctors, and a word
or rescue from the great eyes.
No more masks! No more mythologies!
From “The Suitor” by Jane Kenyon
We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping.
From “Variation on the Word Sleep” by Margaret Atwood
I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head
From “Woman Work” by Maya Angelou
Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.