05 April 2009

Don't Go Back to Sleep/What Do They Know



Rumi's poem has inspired my creative life for almost 20 years.

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you; Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want; Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep.”

A chorus of voices in my head are murmuring the poem in a desperate whisper at this moment. I have to write this down.

I woke up at 6 because my bladder was full.


Outside the world was gray and quiet but last night's weather forecast predicted blue skies and temperatures in the 80s. What do They know? I thought and returned to bed to grab some of that cherished Early Morning Sleep. (Early Morning Sleep on a Gray Morning is the caviar of sleep in my book...) Insomnia had snatched all but one hour of my sleep the night before so I felt entitled.

With NPR tuned low on the radio, I burrowed back into the blankets. There was no struggle; I sank like a stone into sleep.


And a very bad dream.

I am trying to change my life. I finally find the courage to go alone to the coffeehouse where the beautiful, unsmiling, intelligent, creative people hang out. I want to fit in. I am watching to learn the way things are done in this society; on the inside I am full of desire. I can't help myself. I say "Hi, my name is Alex" knowing that these people don't use such colloquialism.

I can't tell which people are customers and which are employees. Behind the counter, a girl is washing cups made of cardboard and small plates that are just disks cut from empty milk containers. She washes them and sets them in a rack but they are still dirty. From my side of the counter, I re-wash, rinse and dry the dishes. The girl glares at me. Only bourgois people pay attention to mundane tasks.

The patron/employees are talking in secret language and making inside jokes. The coffee is good and I leave.

My children are with me when I visit the next time. Two boys: my waking life son at the age of 5 and my real-life grandson at the age of 6 months. The older boy is fine wandering around and talking to people. They like him because even cool people like children. I keep the baby with me and entertain him with house keys and paper napkins. The baby gets restless. He wants to be with his older brother. I think to sit him on the floor with crayons and measuring cups somewhere near where his brother is laughing with the adults; but he is not satisfied. He wants to walk and talk and laugh and climb like his brother, with his brother.

His frustration grows and I decide to take him home. The older boy is not ready to go. I am still trying to impress the coffeehouse crowd; I tell him I'll put the baby to sleep and come back for him. He says he is going with "them" to see some books and then he'll be back. I say okay with misgivings.

When I return to the coffeehouse, he is nowhere in sight and none of the patron/employees noticed where he went. They barely note or respond to my rapidly escalating panic. Someone is improvising on cello and I long to go to the piano to play along. I am running through the rooms of the coffeehouse and around the exterior perimeter. I am crying. "I don't even know what they look like!" I keep crying. I did not see the car or the faces of the people he's with. "I'm a fool! Damn....damn!!!" And I wake up with tears on my cheeks.

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