Going Back to Bed

By J. D. McClatchy b. 1945
Up early, trying to muffle
the sounds of small tasks,
grinding, pouring, riffling
through yesterday’s attacks

or market slump, then changing
my mind—what matter the rush
to the waiting room or the ring
of some later dubious excuse?—

having decided to return to bed
and finding you curled in the sheet,
a dream fluttering your eyelids,
still unfallen, still asleep,

I thought of the old pilgrim
when, among the fixed stars
in paradise, he sees Adam
suddenly, the first man, there

in a flame that hides his body,
and when it moves to speak,
what is inside seems not free,
not happy, but huge and weak,

like an animal in a sack.
Who had captured him?
What did he want to say?
I lay down beside you again,

not knowing if I’d stay,
not knowing where I’d been.

J. D. McClatchy, “Going Back to Bed” from Mercury Dressing. Copyright © 2009 by J. D. McClatchy. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Mercury Dressing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)

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Poet J. D. McClatchy b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Love, Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Realistic & Complicated

 J. D. McClatchy


J.D. McClatchy’s poetry is marked by formal adeptness, lyrical control and a wide range of influences—including classical literature, music, and opera. Praised for their polished, erudite surfaces as well as the depths of thought, philosophy, and feeling beneath the facade, McClatchy treats subjects as diverse as Japanese history, the body, and his own autobiography. Often depicting the unsettling and disturbing realities that . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Love, Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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