Sleep Seeds

Denise Duhamel


I read about a mother who licked
her infant daughter’s
eyes open, washed away
the sleep seeds
with her tongue. 
This must have been
a woman without a facecloth
or warm water, a child
with terrible allergies.
This must have had
something to do
with poverty. Or maybe
I was reading about
the grooming habits of gorillas
or chimps. 
                    I have asked you
to blow dust away
from my lower lid.  I have
pressed the open parenthesis
of a lash from your cheek
onto my fingertip
and kept it.  And if, one morning,
you wake but cannot
see me, I will also
be the woman who laps
your glued eyelids
until they part.  I will ease
away each sleep seed,
each tear’s unbeautiful sister.
Though I can’t remember
if the mother and daughter
were from a magazine article
or novel or poem,
the gesture has stayed with me.
Back then, before I met you,
I thought gross.
                            Now I think love--
our eyes forming crystals
and diamonds when we dream.