Tears In Sleep

I haven't posted a poem in a little while. Before I start, I will make the disclaimer that I'm in a very happy and contented (albeit very tired,) place these days. So unlike most of the poems I post, this poem doesn't pertain to my life circumstances right now.  But I have felt the emotions expressed in this poem before, and I will feel them again. That is just life.

Tears in Sleep

All night the cocks crew, under a moon like day,
And I, in the cage of sleep, on a stranger's breast,
Shed tears, like a task not to be put away---
In the false light, false grief in my happy bed,
A labor of tears, set against joy's undoing.
I would not wake at your word, I had tears to say.
I clung to the bars of the dream and they were said,
And pain's derisive hand had given me rest
From the night giving off flames, and the dark renewing.

Isn’t this beautiful? Haven’t we all “Shed tears, like a task not to be put away---” on days where we just need a good cry? I like the little dash tears at the end of the line, the poem is crying too, and I’m a sucker for non-traditional visual imagery like that. I also appreciate how the speaker acknowledges the “false grief in my happy bed.”

Sometimes everything can be fine, but we cling to our sadness because it is easier to be sad than to go through the refining fire that leads to renewal. Renewal is over-rated when you just want to be sad, or just want an excuse to eat your feelings.

Funnily (or not very funnily, really,) enough this poem reminds me of when I read Elna Baker’s The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance.  I was about half-way through, and in true Stephanie fashion I skipped to the end to see how Baker resolved her life with her faith. I desperately wanted the book to have a neat and happy ending, with no more conflict for the protagonist. When it didn’t turn out that way, I cried. I cried hard. Like the poem, I had tears to say.
But my grief was a false grief. I realized later that I wasn’t crying for Elna Baker, I was crying for me. I wanted my faith crisis to be over, I wanted to go back to being a believer. If Elna could work it out, could still believe, I could work it out too.

We all know how that turned out.

But like all nights spent in the cage of sleep, eventually you wake up, your tears have been said, and the next night you go to sleep in your happy bed, renewed. 


Michelle Glauser said...

I love your analysis. I hadn't run into this poem before, that I remember.

Every time I hear the "Somebody That I Used to Know" song, I am struck by the truth of the words, "You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness." I know that sadness. It's like what you said about sticking with the sadness to avoid the pain of renewal. Sometimes the process is so difficult--to use a favorite Mormon metaphor, the refining fire--that all I can do is give up on the day early.

lifeofdi said...

If you haven't heard Elna Baker's RadioWest interview, you need to. It's really good and I found myself nodding and tearing up at several points.

Sandy said...

I read Elna Baker's book after I heard her give an interview about leaving the church, so I read it knowing the real end, not the book end. Although I suppose leaving the church isn't really the end, either. Regardless, I felt similarly frustrated, because I was reading it during my own faith crisis, and I wanted her to have a happy ending because I wanted me to have a happy ending (and I wanted the happy ending to be in the church...alas). Anyhow, thank you for the poem. I need more poetry in my life.

ChristyLove said...

In case I haven't said it before (because I've meant to but tend to err on the side of humour when I say hello to you, instead): I really like your poetry blogs.

Tiffany said...

Beautiful poem. I feel like I've forgotten how to cry for real life issues. Give me a movie or a book and I'll sob like a baby. Real life issues cause me to go numb, but I think I could use a really cathartic cry.