A poem by Madhuri

When I was a little girl I read everything
That spilled out of our bookshelf onto the floor
And lay about in tumbly piles. I read about Mary Queen of Scots
And how she was beheaded. I read Black Like Me
And a book of poetry kids wrote
In the concentration camps. I read Nancy Drew. All of these
Were food and fodder and floods and furiousity and joy and puzzles;
But then I came across Meetings with Remarkable Men,
In which George Gurdjieff says everyone is asleep;
We walk and talk in slumber.

Meetings with Remarkable Men - Gurdjieff

Obviously the adult world was a terrible and inexplicable place, and books
Told me about it, and I was much impacted by the doomed queen
And the wonderful man who painted himself, and sweated,
And was turned away from hotels in the South.
I was struck to the marrow by black-and-white emaciation, humans discarded like
Old furniture, these things changed my life or rather alerted it and I breathed differently after; and made different vows.

But what was this about sleep? I hated to read it, pushed the words down
Into myself somewhere, but they rose up again and again like a corpse that won’t sink.
I looked at them with loathing, tersely elbowed them away.

Much later I sat every day
With a luminous smooth-pated E.T.
Who spoke of sleep and Gurdjieff
More often than he didn’t. How sleep makes humans do those things –
And I drank him like medicine that tastes of dandelions and elderberries and wine.

What was it, as a child, that I knew?


Poem by Madhuri, Hebden Bridge, 2013

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