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Better Than Counting Sheep

On a night when sleep eludes you, I have,
At last, found the formula. Try to summon

All those ever known who are dead, and soon
It will seem they are there in your room, not chairs enough

To go around, or standing space even, the hall
Chock full, and some faces thrust to the panes to peer.

Then somehow the house, like a wink, isn’t there,
But a field full of folk, and some,

Those near, touch your sleeve so sadly and slow, and all
Want something of you, though you don’t know what—for even

In distance and dimness the hands are out-
Stretched to glow faintly

Like fox-fire in marshland where deadfall
Sump-rots, though a few trunks uneasily stand.

Meanwhile, in the grieving susurrus, though wordless
Indeed, you know, at last, what they want. Each,

Male or female, young or age-gnawed, beloved or not—
Each wants to know do you remember a name.

And you can’t now—not even your mother’s—and your heart
Howls with the loneliness of a wolf in

The depth of a snow-throttled forest when the full moon
Makes coniferous shadows like ink. Then you are alone,

And your name strangely gone as you plunge in ink-shadow or snowdrift.
And the shadows are dreams—but of what? And the snowdrift, sleep.

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