Rest before you sleep

By Dionisio D. Martínez b. 1956 Dionisio D. Martinez

Requiem after Fauré, for my father

Rest before you sleep         You’ll be walking for hours   
then         as usual         away from home         your shoes   
in your hand         your feet not yet used to the road   
Perhaps they need to feel the gravel   
to know where they’re headed

A woman I knew         who lived mostly in the woods   
mentioned the danger in presuming to know   
what an animal thinks         The fox         for example   
stopping by her open tent and looking in

I suppose she would’ve felt this way about your feet   
She would’ve said how could anyone know   
what a pair of tired feet need along the way

I would’ve asked her how she knew the feet   
were tired         Such discourse produces nothing
but anything less would be silence   
and that would be intolerable   
I wish I knew why I was telling you this

It’s easier to read the mind of a fox than to guess   
what a man’s about to say when he returns   
from the woods         head full of roots         veins   
more like branches         shoes in one hand         feet   
blistered         and none of this necessarily   
an indication of how the feet feel         what miles   
uphill and back have done to the soles   
and to the small bones that propel a man

It’s safe now         I think         to speak for the fox
who is only as cunning as we say it is   
We’re the only creatures that claim to be anything   
then build a house of facts around the claim

I’ve come for vindication         No point in trying   
to disguise it as a lesser wish         Wake up         stop   
while you still know where you are         Put away   
your elusive country         Give your sleep a rest

Source: Poetry (September 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2008
 Dionisio D. Martínez


Dionisio D. Martínez was born in Havana, Cuba and now makes his home in Tampa, Florida. Although Martinez never received a formal college education, his poetry has been hailed as original and contemporary, and he has been called a “formidable talent.” His books of poetry include Dancing at the Chelsea (1992), History as a Second Language (1993), Bad Alchemy (1995), and Climbing Back (2000). He has been awarded fellowships by . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Animals

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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