Daniel Benjamin

Let Us Compost Into Sleep

The days and months and years lie next to each other

How shall we move between them falling into dreams that would unite,

Always choosing togetherness

Falling into the ocean, the bay, the inlet, the stream

The sand holds me and cannot The sun is good for me and bad

How far does my body stretch: further than hope, further than heaven

How slow and never ending my fantasies of wakefulness

In feeling that it’s my people on the line, the family I’d choose

That’s not enough / not true enough

In sleep I sink into my unchosen desires further than hope

I give my body for stretched canvas, tattoo inscription

Into the synaesthetic drift toward no sense, not open parentheses

Good looks and wealth are not enough to keep you alive, Bill Berkson

I write to welcome death’s cousin

And as a prayer that I might be not too changed in the morning

My emptiness feels large enough to write into / I have much to write to my emptiness

That could be love, or its opposite lack, or some individual resolve against death

Keeping well my own council where shall I stare / feeling that I am too old to love my emptiness

Like a vapid fuckboy but where am I better

Tonight for one night I kill the mosquito

The sheets match the covers of the book in which I write

To you, deep and delightful, my sleep to come

The opening dream squawks louder than trains or bowels

Drift into a closing or call it an opening

Skin not protecting, eyes not hurtling shut, my cold open to the hot world of violence and events

I take the fabric to my face and look through it

I take to the sidewalk to see this large moon

I take off glasses and clothes

This night is shorter than anything, I commit whole-hearted to its brief embrace

Not incomplete for its brevity, a crater-word can make a whole poem

My body holds its own council, care, collapse

For what event do bodies gather and touch, recognize exposure’s frailty, expose recognition’s frailty

I am only a recombination alone or with others, let that be a sufficient wager against despair

You are coldly ringing the bell of arriving or passing my open head

After the fact cocooned, my losing joy can be the empty sea that carries my vessel to sleep, lidded and provisionally secure

I run in place from an echoic influence, a fixed stretching as I step into it

Adequate, automatic, alimentum: my collapse is that horn’s announcement

Does my fundament swallow me whole, does the sidewalk repair end this week

My head leaves and hurts robbed of rest for cold misdirection

A small world I cannot (can only) follow into a comfort of allergies

Does a diversion mean a loss of faith or the end of the experiment

Does a bed partner mean the opposite of poetry or sweating

Are my hurting shoes cause or effect of my cut toe

Daytime holds no clarity, red fields that appear are not what I’m seeking

Moving aside to clear a quiet the sound carries all the way up and richer in the silence

The animal restless on the cold window to smells and loves

I hold tightly the warm alternative

Filled as my eyes and the closure is temporary, provisional

And they do not open on an ad hoc political instruction

The social world of these eyes, pens, pages, is generous, more than I can hold

Why do some people kiss and others not and what counts as irony

What is my animal, what is my fate, what good is writing the single poem

In a dream of perfection you withdraw reality

Extendo extendo extendo

I’m not ready to close my eyes / I am sick at the state of things

My compost, my slow digestion, my late night hunger

My displacement, my passing scent, my tape delay

The gold on the glass moves inward from calculation in my body’s aloneness

A touch, a body, an expansion to bring closer sleep and eyes closed in no position

Let them compost into sleep

To imitate replaces repetition in the ringing train born other hums

I can’t remember my states so know words are in them

Breathing the fire dust, I adopt myself to it

Count the terms of my belonging, my most comparable unit breaking me up

There is no grave of love

There is no grave of love

What is sleep to bodies that are together

I send a few messages to the nearby beyond

Some animal taps on the glass door, Maddie growls unmusically

Its wonders become reflective

I lost it in my hypnopompic reverie

Minimally caught in the life of the prison my protest is a barely legible complaint

My hand knowingly shrinks and seizes in the cold of sleep

Dreaming of a go and find out function

In private and public conversation you release a wave of love I fain would ride

The weight of the duvet feels like a withdrawn conceptual capacity

Etel Adnan’s suns do not cease exploding

I’m gathering jams with a purpose

The large raccoon at the window, some neighbor fucking with great volume

What dark looks end up exchanging

Now the dream is just a feeling of movement

From the abyss I feel every loud bang

I read an interview with Etel Adnan where she says the most important thing is love

Dust goes up and down and ends up everywhere

She says that unlike a poem or a painting the person you love can talk back

I write in fear of sleep’s unworking / dominion over unspoken worlds

Wondering why my head hurts when I drank so little, why last night I couldn’t come

I distrust my darkness script

My aloneness cannot be dangerous in my warm bed in my cold room

Sleep unwork me into brief non-being

My bed is not a cold hell nor exactly a respite

My blank love isn’t competitive

Tonight tighten the blinds, refuse the requirement of sight, then who will divine

I prepare my body for interruptions to the narrative in a flat exhale

Like angels light comes out of your heads from where I’m sitting

Like Moses in the painting by James Ensor, so lucky to have Miriam he is a shining bird

Let that light wipe me clean, wake me for the celebration

I bat at phantoms, watch my cat wipe drool from her snoring face

I’m my own manager of unlisting scrawl

The conversation in the vestibule of the prison is bad, sparks an urgent search for shade of any kind

The sidewalk is lighter than the sky / I use my sunglasses to avert your gaze or share your downward glance

I see a shadow pass like a bird overhead and I look up but I’m in my room with my eyes closed

The world’s quietness is a white illusion I typically inhabit

Its hold is like a half-finished sword of Damocles

“As a mottled butterfly is invisible against the ground / so the demon merges with the opened newspaper,” says Tomas Tranströmer

I lean back and peter out to the sound of lapping, hard in the quiets of my memory

I’m thinking too much and idly touching my cock

For the sensitive party, for the seat of confusion

The solution to your increasingly abstract problems is forgetting, says Eileen Myles

My residues become a cloak that I turn into a pillow

I straighten my neck into unthinking and close my eyes to the page

My body flakes and furs

A confusion like questioning, like finding an equal and opposite force to despair’s dusty cellar

Define cruising

The spaces need not be described we will be taken

My extension is limited

In a friendly relation with the night, in a forgetting friendship

A litter of containers follows me into my unworking hours

I ventured and now I won’t

And I am dried up and I am still with my friends however physically scattered

Though seeming flat and open the city is a crater where wealth pools at the bottom

To fall in place, to fall upon oneself

Now I could withdraw light completely

Sleep’s membrane is a hard glass and I am blind to the clock or sun in the converse pool

I locate my body on moving axes of habitus, take out and exercise videos

Whatever else filters I drink in and repair

Earlier, hearing a gross story about cat hair, it demeans me to imagine myself as your rival

The world is quiet enough for my quiet song

I let a little chaos in my mind

An unacknowledged separation clouds the sky of love

Still untired, still itchy, still clothed in my own inflamed skin

Am I to disrobe into sovereignty

Two nights of a raccoon showing his face in the 2am window

Let my independence day be a celebration of the soft angles at which I lie

And who is the source of the noises I heard

Tonight no dark forces alter my state

How long have you been waiting / how long is five minutes or the road to unconsciousness

My resting place is a temporary route whose frictions I understand

Sentences take shape on a page, I prefer to put the dangerous book away

Deal to the police only in non-sequiturs

In my bed-shaped fiefdom of absolutes

Earlier tonight I saw a spider perched inside the toilet bowl and as I began to piss it startled and flew to its death in my murderous stream

A confusion of quantity

To settle means a distance marked however short

No shadows dancing except inside my eyelids

Language comes in many separations

And I’ve been digging my ears to China

I feel the shards of broken relationships embedded in my forehead

Stirring in the alarm’s immediate precedence to a light room

And who will stare endlessly

The world does not conform to my desires

My duality has a man in it and tonight he eats ice cream, watches TV, sends a few messages to the beyond

My pen is an uncertain conduit

Or leaning forward naked to the truth or lies of these lines

There’s a tickle in my throat, I feel far from the source, broken for the moment out of twoness

Let us refuse the coffin shape into the body

Some things cling to me anyway

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Daniel Benjamin is a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley. His poems have recently appeared in Oversound and Berkeley Poetry Review. He is the author of an afterword to a new edition of Jack Spicer's story The Wasps (spect!, 2016). With Eric Sneathen, he edited The Bigness of Things: New Narrative and Visual Culture (Wolfman Books, 2017), and with Claire Marie Stancek, Active Aesthetics: Contemporary Australian Poetry (Tuumba/Giramondo, 2016).