"Tonight I want to say something wonderful
Back to the Interview
A Workshop Exercise
from The Poet's Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of
Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. W.W. Norton
& Company. 1997.
Write a poem of praise for an unlikely group of people, things,
ideas-- whatever or whoever you think has gotten short shrift or a bad
rap. Do as Hirsch does and about halfway through the poem insert a
colon and then leap off and dare say something overtly beautiful
or poetic, bizarre or funny. Then return to the poem and tell us what
this group has to teach us about ourselves. Also notice how Hirsch
uses the letter "w" throughout his poem and how, like a thread, it
helps to pull us through the poem. Choose a letter and try weaving it
into the language, but don't be overly alliterative-- be subtle.
For the Sleepwalkers
Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible
arrow cared into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.
I love the way that the sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,
palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.
And always they wake up as themselves again.
That's why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.
Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music
of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests
We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds
and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.