Bed: A Domestic History
It was a busier place once.
Candles burned to squat, as fleas and lice
were deftly handpicked—or impatiently slapped.
Then the masters, servants, children, visitors
and favoured livestock took their places
on the gathered pallets of straw and stricken mattresses of flock.
The smell and racket constructed a stronghold.
All sorts of things went on in the sturdy dark: curtain lectures,
pillow talk, the bellyaching of goats, much more . . .
Until it was deemed that daily rank and order
must also be nocturnal law.
Sunless terror was no excuse for such a throng.
After all, what was wrong with the ingenious blanket?
For millennia it protected urchins and royalty alike
from the plague of the cosmos,
the chill of its breath.
Ideal for one—at a stretch connubial—it surely rendered
the night more convivial.
For the sake of humankind, it was officially deemed enough.
Suddenly, with the room still as a tomb and altogether dispiriting,
it seemed wise to kneel and say something
before burying oneself beneath the covers alone.
Before I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
Of course, there was no real danger of resting like the dead.
The lovesick cats and hysterical cocks would continue to wake us
long before it was decent.
Valium-white, this apparatus delivers order
to the asylum of the newborn.
Of sound and scientific principle, it facilitates—without fuss—
the necessary separation of them from us.
After all, parturition is about parting more than the legs.
(The etymologies of modernity tell us so.)
Under minimalist supervision (suits any décor),
beginners can be instructed in oxygenation,
draining the amniotic swamps of their lungs and staking
a proper claim to terrestrialism.
(In this market, it can never be too early to get a purchase on land.)
Meanwhile, parents can return to the room reserved
for those accustomed to airy living.
There are other things requiring their attention:
Facebook; Instagram; Netflix.
Let us be distracted; let us be rational.
Whatever you do, avoid getting sidetracked by poetry.
Silence is not some poignant metaphor.
According to the key in the instruction booklet
it signals battery failure.
First comes the melding together of steel,
like a modesty curtain.
Then the quaint ding, clinical in its timing.
We stand, suited shoulder to shoulder, boxed in,
The silence that descends is unknown
even in the otherworldly hearing of moths.
Then suddenly it strikes: self-consciousness.
Of course, nothing can be given away, even though
every now and then someone, gauchely, gives in.
We jostle like sheep, the whole process excruciating,
before one or two of us are released.
Their relief can only be theorized.
The doors seal over again, like the mercury surface of a well,
and the rest of us are left, a herd of the living
burdened by the silence of flesh.
How we long for transfiguration.
To be frank, any disappearing trick would do.
There are two symbols, occult triangles up high,
that resemble the Eye of Providence.
One points to heaven, the other to a basement of dust.