20

20

By Barbara Guest 1920–2006 Barbara Guest
Sleep is 20
                    remembering the
insignificant flamenco dancer
in Granada
                    who became
important as you watched
the mountain ridge
                    the dry hills

What an idiotic number!

Sleep is twenty

it certainly isn’t twenty sheep
there weren’t that many in the herd
under the cold crest of Sierra Nevada

It’s more like 20 Madison Ave. buses
while I go droning away at my dream life
Each episode is important
that’s what it is! Sequences —
I’ve got going a twenty-act drama
the theatre of the active
the critics are surely there
even the actors
even the flowers presented onstage
even the wild flowers
picked by the wife of the goatherd
each morning early (while I sleep)
under the snow cone
of Sierra Nevada

                    yellow caps like castanets
                    I reach into my bouquet
                    half-dreaming
                    and count twenty
                    yellow capped heads

flowers clicking twenty times
because they like to repeat themselves

as I do as does the morning
or the drama one hopes
will be acted many times

As even these dreams in similar
people’s heads

                         20
     
                     castanets

Barbara Guest, “20” from The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest. Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Guest and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest (Wesleyan University Press, 2008)

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Poet Barbara Guest 1920–2006

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance

 Barbara  Guest

Biography

Barbara Guest rose to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of an informal group of writers known as the New York school of poets whose membership included Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. Their innovative approach to poetry was influenced by modern art, especially surrealism and abstract expressionism. Guest drew on her own background in art (she worked for Art News magazine in the 1950s) to create poetry . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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