Promising the Air

A woman I loved talked in her sleep to children.
She would start her half of the conversation,
her half of asking, of answering the need to bring
the boy up the path from some dream-lake, some

wandering source, water, a river, or a road along
the tree-line of a river, she would say his small name,
then silence, privacy, the drift back to the center.
The child was the tenderness in her voice.

I can remember waking myself up talking, saying nothing
that mattered but loud enough for someone else to hear.
No one was there. It was like coming alive, suddenly,
in a body. I was afraid, as in the dark we are each time

new. I was afraid, word of mouth, out of breath.
Waking is the first loneliness—
but sleep can be anything you want, the path
to the summerhouse, silence, or a call across water.

I am taught, and believe, that even in light the mind
wanders, speaks before thinking. This piece of a poem
is for her who wept without waking, who, word for word,
kept her promise to the air. And for the boy.

—Stanley Plumly