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The House of Sleep

The House of Sleep
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Title: The House of Sleep
Release Date: 2019-01-20
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Date added: 27 March 2019
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THE HOUSE OF SLEEP

Elizabeth Bartlett


The House of Sleep was originally published in 1975 by AutographEditions in Colima, Mexico, and is now out-of-print. The author'sliterary executor, Steven James Bartlett, has decided to make thebook available as an open access publication, freely available toreaders through Project Gutenberg under the terms of the CreativeCommons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivs license, which allowsanyone to distribute this work without changes to its content,provided that both the author and the original URL from which thiswork was obtained are mentioned, that the contents of this workare not used for commercial purposes or profit, and that this workwill not be used without the copyright holder's written permissionin derivative works (i.e., you may not alter, transform, or buildupon this work without such permission). The full legal statementof this license may be found at:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode


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To Paul

When you gave me a painting of hammocks,
I knew:

The dreamer tells the truth, the self awake
does not.

For years I raged against the images
you drew.

How they stared, gloomy shrouds, whenever I
forgot.

To rest, be still—I swore that was a way
of death.

Yet find more lives in sleep than I have years
ahead.




THE HOUSE OF SLEEP


by

Elizabeth Bartlett


AUTOGRAPH EDITIONS

Colima, Mexico

1975



Copyright 1975 by Elizabeth Bartlett

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this
book in whole or in part in any form.

First Edition

Acknowledgement: some of these poems have appeared in
The Virginia Quarterly


BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR

Poems of Yes and No
Behold This Dreamer
Poetry Concerto
It Takes Practice Not to Die
Threads
Selected Poems
Twelve-Tone Poems



THE HOUSE OF SLEEP


It is a house with many doors,
no two alike.

I am at home in all its rooms
of time and place.

My changing person, gender, speech
hold no surprise.

I know who I am in my sleep,
behind my face.

If you ask which of them is false
and which is true

Enter the house with me and call,
I'll answer you.



Here inside the darkness,
the eye of light opens

As mind travels inward
to a fourth dimension.

There is no perspective
of other or outside.

Both obverse and reverse
are simultaneous

While past and present form
a folding wave that flows

Now backward, then forward
in one eternal dream.



I found it as a child,
a house that was all mine

Where I could think and be
whatever I believed.

Half of me stayed outside
on guard, aware of spies

The inner self went free
to wonder as it pleased.

Leaving the day behind,
I came upon the night

And there I dreamed of things
past all imagining.



Memory is no stranger
in the house of sleep.

It comes as a visitor
for a reunion.

If a private occasion,
with the family

Or else with those forgotten
who have long been gone.

The waiting house is ready
for us to gather.

Together or separately
our memories meet.



Waking in the night,
I have wondered where I am

Knowing I have been away
and not yet returned.

I lie still and wait
between absence and presence

Conscious of being witness
to my sleep and wake.

Here's body, inert,
prepared to revert to clay.

O wanderer with my lamp,
how dim grows the light.



Flying effortlessly
I escape gravity

And seaborne, breathe through gills
to swim past coral isles

Where I emerge on shores
that climb up ancient roads.

Always, my origins
enact some past within

Recalling elements
of former existence.

Save two, that I renounce:
bloodrust fire, fleshtorn ground.



Here I need no clock
to tell me what time it is.

The day, season, year
conform to no calendar.

No compass or map
points my route or direction.

Sensation is all:
the shape and sound of feeling.

I learn what I think
by choice of symbols, meanings.

I invent my world
as much as it invents me.



A baton like a pendulum
swings back and forth.

Across the universe it moves
in perfect time

Leading an orchestra of stars
through measured space.

A score arranged with such grandeur,
I merely hear

Its echoes through the walls of sleep—
how faint, how far

While my heart beats to the rhythm
of earth's passage.



The twelve hours of the night
are paths between the stars.

Whichever one you take
leads to this centered house

If you speak the password
to those who guard the gates.

You must not look at them
or touch them on the way

Lest you be left alone
and hear the triple bark.

For the rest, safe journey
and sweet dreams until dawn.



How the bedtime refrain still echoes
through the house:

"Good night, sweet dreams, see you tomorrow."
Was it wish

Or something more substantial for child
to sleep on

Like a pillow filled throughout the night
with promise?

Which was kept and shall be kept in years
yet to come

When all the yesterdays that made me,
wake at dawn.



In genesis the dream began
and came to life

By dividing the form from void,
the dark from light

And parting the sea from dry land,
mother from child

Gave image its own reflection
by day and night

But kept the sleeping and waking
for seem and like

That the timeless and undying
remain in-sight.



Our dreamscape is a Mil Cumbres
across the years.

Peak after peak they rise like crests
above a sea

In which we plunge, swim, dive and drown
beneath each wave.

Yet breath returns and eyes grow clear
from time to time

As all stands still, becalmed, at rest,
and we can see

There, where we were. Here, where we are.
How far. Which way.



It was a garden of people
at all seasons.

I saw hands at work everywhere,
none of them still.

Some were planting new souls
in the fresh earth.

Others went about the weeding,
pruning, hoeing

Their baskets filled with human plants
of every kind.

While leaves, endless leaves kept falling
all around me.



Among the Joshua trees,
I saw a stone cross

Both claiming world salvation
from brush, sand and thorn

While I stood on a mountain,
waiting for the ark

To save me from destruction,
drowned by floods of sun.

But the fiery waves rose up
forty days and nights

And there was not a sign of
clouds, and no dove came.



A bird stopped me
as I started to walk across.

"You can not enter the circle,
you have no wings."

So I went back
and I looked for them on the earth.

But none of all the winged insects
knew where mine were.

So I went on
and I looked for them in the sea.

And the fish told me of angels
who looked like birds.



With this ring I thee wed,
said the moon, said the earth.

I saw it overhead,
a crystal band of ice

Through which the eye of God
bore witness once again

To living light and love
within the cosmic void.

I heard the vows exchanged
between the cold and dark

Then with my own, warm breath
I wed the night and slept.



Through the mirror and through the fog,
all things reverse.

I see the right side on the left,
the left side, right.

I see the shapes of what has been
behind, transposed.

A camera floats above my head
as dreams submerge.

A shadow moves beyond my feet
in backward stride.

The mirror and the fog are one,
and I, enclosed.



What was the Eskimo
doing in the tropics?

What was the Hottentot
doing in the arctic?

Caught between the two,
I asked what choice was mine?

Having to freeze or burn,
I felt, was too extreme.

Yet heart elected south
and brain

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