the origin of sleep

by Robin Gow

at the end of this hallway
there will be a nurse’s office
where we can go to sleep. grey mats
to splay out on & the soft angelic drone
of the white neon. inspecting
the shelf of first aid items: rubber gloves
& band aides & vials of pills. a medicine cabinet
made of glass opening by itself. the nurse
reminds us that we should be sleeping more.
the nurse reminds us we can’t
come back here every day and we say
yes of course we won’t. sleep comes like
blotches of yellow. a raining fog.
a fist of sand. a tree branch falling
on the playground. i would rather sleep here
than have recess where it’s cold outside
& the other children know what my name means.
i sift my body for something to think about
as i stare up at the panels of the ceiling.
i want to tell the elementary school nurse
that i’m too old for this. that i’m
twenty-three now & still escaping
to this room. the nurse’s office
means you can pause everything.
means crinkling paper. means checking
for illness. means sometimes going home.
i want a full autopsy. i want
the sleep to be located & held up
to light in all its navy blue burning.
i don’t know what i’m doing
inside this specific possibility
other than the fact that i need fixing.
i tell lovers that i am
not worthy of love & that they should
hurt me if they want to do this right.
i don’t tell them about the nurse’s office
& how in my younger body
i’m taken care of. how they’re gentle
to the smallest scrap on my skin.
i invent wounds. i hold up my finger
& point to the bare skin saying
that it hurts— that it hurts so much
& the nurse peers closer before
asking where & how & why.
here i sleep & sometimes others come too,
pretending i’m not here.
pretending this isn’t an invention
of both of our needs.
one boy gets covered head to toe
in band aides & another swallows
fist-fulls of pills. the nurse
informs me these are just what they need
& that we all need something different.
she tells me i should go to sleep again—
that i should count the panels
on the ceiling & sip my name
letter by letter from a straw.
she is no one i’ve ever met
& i don’t try to remember her.
she has curly & straight hair.
she has black & white nail polish.
she flickers before i fall asleep
& wake up in my average bed
at the end of no hallway
inside of no school made of glass
where there is no recess children
crowding at the window & asking
to toss my name like a rubber ball
from tongue to tongue.

Robin Gow‘s the author of the chapbook HONEYSUCKLE by Finishing Line Press. His poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Roanoke Review. He is a graduate student and professor at Adelphi University pursing an MFA in Creative Writing. He a Managing Editor at The Nasiona, Editor at Large for Village of Crickets, and Social Media Coordinator for Oyster River Pages. His first full-length collection is forthcoming with Tolsun Books.

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