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For a Student Sleeping in a Poetry Workshop

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I've watched his eyelids sag, spring open
   Vaguely and gradually go sliding
      Shut again, fly up
With a kind of drunken surprise, then wobble
   Peacefully together to send him
      Home from one school early. Soon his lashes
Flutter in REM sleep. I suppose he's dreaming
   What all of us kings and poets and peasants
      Have dreamed: of not making the grade,
Of draining the inexhaustible horn cup
   Of the cerebral cortex where ganglions
      Are ganging up on us with more connections
Than atoms in heaven, but coming up once more
   Empty. I see a clear stillness
      Settle over his face, a calming of the surface
Of water when the wind dies. Somewhere
   Down there, he's taking another course
      Whose resonance (let's hope) resembles
The muttered thunder, the gutter bowling, the lightning
   Of minor minions of Thor, the groans and gurgling
      Of feral lovers and preliterate Mowglis, the songs
Of shamans whistled through bird bones. A worried neighbor
   Gives him the elbow, and he shudders
      Awake, recollects himself, brings back
His hands from aboriginal outposts,
   Takes in new light, reorganizes his shoes,
      Stands up in them at the buzzer, barely recalls
His books and notebooks, meets my eyes
   And wonders what to say and whether to say it,
      Then keeps it to himself as today's lesson.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

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For a Student Sleeping in a Poetry Workshop

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