Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not Sniping at Sleep




"THE SNIPE HUNT" by Mary Stebbins Taitt (click image to view larger.)

Not Sniping at Sleep

Winged as a curlew, long-beaked as a woodcock,
sleep whistles and dives through the shattered night.
Searching, I scrabble through dark swamps
reeking of marsh gas and fetid with the smells
of rotting fish. My song bursts with yearning,
alternating chipping, burbling and fluting sounds,
like a sparrow held under water. My pleading
tastes like a mesh bag holding raw shrimp and crayfish.
Muddy ooze seeps cold through the knees and hem
of my nightgown, black muck and slime clings
to my fingers and toes. Burdocks and beggars ticks
burrow in my hair. I carry a snare for the snipe of sleep,
but when the bird swoops by and I reach to snag it,
my fingers pass, ethereal, through a taunting fantasia
of feathers, fog and clouds, of unborn sleep that drifts
past, damp, intangible and utterly unattainable.
Snipe dreams tumble by, hauntingly near
but always beyond reach. They refuse to descend
into my wake-parched eyes. I strain
toward the gibbering voices of dream phantoms.
They talk in tongues, whisper and twitter
in unlearned or unknown languages
and their aurora-colored feathers flutter
around my bed, falling like the warm snow
of dreams but never touching my face.
Long snipe beaks tear the night in strips,
shredding it into confettis of longing.
The snipe of sleep will be neither captured
nor kept. It cannot be domesticated.
Elusive, beyond wild, it ranges over
the incalculable waters of night.
It turns bedrooms into swamplands
and sanity into shrieking lunacy.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

A snipe hunt is a wild-goose chase or fool's errand. The term originated from a practical joke where experienced campers convinced inexperienced campers to capture a “snipe,” variously described as a bird or animal. The novice campers were given absurd methods of catching the snipe, such as running through the woods carrying a bag while making odd noises. Real snipes, shorebirds with long bills, are so difficult to catch for even experienced hunters that the word "sniper" originally meant someone skilled enough to shoot a snipe.

I am not a sniper of sleep. OR, on the other hand, maybe that’s exactly what I am! Perhaps I should stop sniping at sleep. Am I on a snipe hunt OR am I a sniper? If I CAPTURE a snipe, I can sleep—if I kill it, I shan’t sleep! This and the previous version at the Rolandale Silk Creek Retreat House in the Hiker Kitty Room. NaPoWriMo (National Poetry month) Instead of writing a new poem every day for National Poetry month, I've been working on the SAME poem over and over every day (pretty much like always.)

I redid both the art and the poetry and the new version can be found at The Smell of Sun (now called "Fool's Errand")

2 comments:

Karen Walker said...

Hi Mary,
Just wanted to thank you for the kind words on my blog and over at Thoughts in Progress, It's so nice to "meet" you.
Karen

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks, Karen--I appreciate what you said!!!!! Mary :-D