This is Not That Child

The one that came before, with whom I’ve done this bedtime with two years ago,

the bedtime of endless crying, little body rolling over and over and over again as if on a spit

head plowing into the pillows, head butting the walls

the instinctive need to ambulate

the ability not quite there but so close

impossible to let the trying go, and yet

here sleep is, here it is, there now, hush.

This is not that child,

The one who slept in closets or on boards

just for the fun of it

who emptied her drawers to sleep on a bed of clothes

who remembers all these nighttime rituals thirty years later, and only now gives a sympathetic thought to that child’s mother, who never got enough sleep

that child can bring up from the depths of memory a particular smell

that she always knew was her mother’s scent but

only now when it soaks her own clothes, pouring freely in little white rivers for this child

understands that all this time, it was the milk.

the scent memory so strong, animal in its ability to tie infant to mother so tightly that they can find one another even in the dark, breast and mouth,

smells like love, like eggs, like dark warm, like head in lap, like eyes hiding in a warm neck, like cows in fresh hay, like female skin, like celery, like sweat, like blankets, like a mother’s pillow.

This is not either of these children,

but like happens and has happened a thousand thousand times before

the sleep will come, milky and heavy

stillness will settle into small limbs, and you, my child, will assume the shape of all-surrender.

I’ll place the blanket over you, and while you’ll be half-aware, your body will not move. Like when, after waking in the middle of the night you might lift yourself from the mattress to peer outside and discover that a blanket of snow covers everything in the world, but this change will just invite more sleep. Stillness and silence, these are discoveries.

By the blankets, we know the world has changed, but all the better for sleeping, and so we shall.