as if it were enough

June 2, 2010

A girl sleeps as if
she were in someone’s dream;
a woman sleeps as if tomorrow a war will begin;
an old woman sleeps as if
it were enough to feign being dead
and death might pass her by
on the far outskirts of sleep.

—Vera Pavlova

Death and sleep have been occupying my mind a lot lately. My grandma is swiftly dying of cancer, but unlike the nonspecific old woman in Pavlova’s poem, she’s ready to go. When I visited my grandma, she was as chatty as ever, but rather abruptly she became tired, and her eyes closed, and she warned me that she was about to drift off on me. It was the way my baby used to sleep, in his early months—the swift change from awake to not awake—his limbs active, then stretching, then still; his cooing suddenly stopping, replaced by sweet, even breathing.

My baby is 17 months now and this week we decided to start teaching him to fall back asleep on his own after partial night wakings. The thing is, he hasn’t cried at all in the middle of the night for the last 2 nights. Go figure. He must be sleeping as if he were in someone’s dream. As for me, a woman, almost 27 years, I snooze just fine, a deep and restorative sleep. But bedtime is the tricky thing, the thing when I feel a kind of war approach me. Grief overthrows me like a coup d’etat.


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