You never saw yourself
You never saw yourself asleep —
as far as you let on. You'd read stories
about near-death events, books
on lucid dreaming —
intrigued by a spirit looking down on its body
from just below the ceiling, or circling its house
like a hawk.
Never saw yourself through my eyes,
invincible without your defences,
drained of fear and hostility, forgiven
there & then.
You never saw yourself, asleep,
totally out of the loop, basic as an infant —
an equation so readily solved, all
my matching hostilities would evaporate
on the spot.
Only to form again the next day,
the fine human rain of mistrust.
We've been fighting, you've been beating
your fists against my intractable wall —
your version, of course, flawed as mine.
It's taken us years to give up on logic,
to realise neither will bleed to death.
It's exhausting, even so, and you opt
for an early night.
You won't be aware of this rain, its muffled,
irregular heartbeat borrowing from ours.
Cool air starts to settle on your skin,
your sleepwalking fingers tug at the sheet.
I pull it up over your shoulder, my alien fingers
blend seamlessly with those in your virtual world.
Outside, a massive eucalypt trunk now looks
like a fat man in a sauna,
its red hide sweating a pearly fever
that will be gone by morning.
Sleep can be our referee, holding up
a score card tomorrow, if we still
want to know.
Whatever you asked
Whatever you asked, either of you: take
this medicine, take this food. Shape your lips
around this prayer. Close your eyes:
For the years that are counted on fingers,
you had me in the palms of your hands,
cherished, watched over, controlled —
so clearly in focus, I might have been heirloom:
all care not to drop it, ever.
Care written into the contract. Before it is
anything, love is precisely the absence
of reasons to hate.
Bending over me at bedtime — blankets
up to my chin, waiting to kiss and be kissed —
you would have thought it odd to inquire
if I loved you in return, connected to you
as I was by words, at home
in your time and space.
Everything seems a given, until time
drives a wedge. It must all be intended —
misunderstandings, resentments, the jumble
of rights and wrongs.
Neither side quite forgiving the other
for feeling a need to move on.
Brisbane poet Michael Sariban is the author of four collections. These poems are from two forthcoming titles: The Devil You Know ('Cooling down' and 'You never saw yourself') and Berlin Journal ('Whatever you asked').