"The Sleeping Gypsy"

By Michele Wolf Michele Wolf

  Henri Rouseeau, 1897

In the heat of her dream, she hears
The iron kettle boiling, its scuttle and hum
As hurried as hoofbeats across a plain.
She drops in two guinea hens. Dancing
In a ring round her skirts, the children
Cheer, “Auntie, the English song!”  Lifting
Her lute, she sings of the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumping over the moon.  How the little
Ones hoot when the dish runs away
With the spoon.  Ah, spoonan uncloaked
Lute, it waits to be strummed. The temptation of London, of Paris,
Of bumping along in the carriage with M. Philippe
In his top hat and greatcoat to visit
The peacocks, turquoise and gold and green, each
Roaming the Bois de Boulogne with one hundred eyes.

She sleeps in the desert, under a smiling full moon
That shines in the teal night. Quiet behind her,
A lion stands, tail erect, having sniffed
At her onyx flesh, at the ribbony stripes
His color-blindness darkens on her muslin dress,
All rainbow hues. She is lost in a dream,
Always happiest out of doors, without shoes.

Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (August 1995).


This poem originally appeared in the August 1995 issue of Poetry magazine

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August 1995
 Michele  Wolf


Poet, teacher, and editor Michele Wolf was raised in Miami, but has spent much of her life in New York City or just outside Washington D.C., in Maryland. She earned degrees from Boston University and Columbia University, and began to write poetry seriously after winning a scholarship in non-fiction to attend the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. There, Wolf says, she had a “transformative experience…it was the first time I was . . .

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