Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Going Back to Sleep, January 7, 2009

A Barred Owl

The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

--Richard Wilbur

Prompt: Write about going back to sleep.
(I often suggest that people take a line from a poem or
an image and use that as a starting point for writing.)


Jill said...

Car in the Night

The black car sits in the street. It’s late and I can’t sleep. Mom and Dad turned in already, I can’t bother them. My sister’s snoring, I can hear through the wall. The baseball bat is under my bed, like always. I feel with my fingers to make sure it’s still there. And the door is cracked, the way I asked Dad to leave it, so he can hear if I scream.

I’m not sure how long the black car has been there, but it doesn’t belong to any of our neighbors. Not the Harkrader’s or Hershey’s or the family next door with the big white poodle that bit me. It could be a visitor or maybe a stranger. I learned in school never to talk to strangers. Or take candy or any food item that isn’t wrapped. Once, a neighbor gave me a caramel apple for Halloween and I politely said no. She was an old lady, but still a stranger to me.

I get out of bed, tiptoe across the hall, knock, lightly at first. No answer. I crack the door and whisper, “Dad? Dad?” Still nothing but the sounds of sleep. “Dad?” I raise my voice.

“Yes, Love? What is it?” He answers without moving. The comforter still across the two bodies I can barely make out in the dark.

“Did you lock the door?”


“Did you lock the door?” Dad always forgets to lock the door. He says it doesn’t matter, the neighborhood is safe. But ours is the only house on the block that hasn’t had a burglar.

“I think so, Love. Go back to bed.”

My heart races, like a cat’s when you pick it up the wrong way or at the wrong time. I take quiet steps to the front door, don’t bother with lights, I know this long hall well. I race back and forth sometimes when the weather’s bad or it’s dark out. Touch the wall at one end and race to the other. Back and forth, back and forth, timing with my stopwatch. I try to set a new record each run. Race further and faster.

But now, at night, I take it slow. So my steps won’t make noise. I turn the corner at the foyer, tiptoe to the front door. I feel for the deadbolt, flip it locked, glance out the window to see. The black car is still there.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” I think I hear a voice. I jump at the touch of something on my leg. “Sam!” His dog fur is fine and bristly, as he lets out a whine. I tell him to go back to sleep. I go back to bed also.

Under the covers is cold. I feel below for the bat, still there, right by the edge in case I need it. The door is cracked so Dad can hear me scream. The black car, it’s gone. Now, finally, I can go to sleep.

Carol Henderson said...

This reminds me of sneaking downstairs on summer nights, as a little girl, to close the heavy wooden front door. How could Mom and Dad and my sisters sleep at night with only a screen between them and the darkness.
We get such insight into the mind of this scared little girl here--who is obsessed not only with black cars parked outside but with setting running records in the hall, "I try to set a new record each run."

I also think about how well children know the creaky noises and hallways and locks of their childhood homes.

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