How Sleep is Shared

Mary Birnbaum

Mary Birnbaum

How Sleep is Shared was selected for MSUL’s themed call for work about Water, in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum’s fall 2023 exhibition, Flint is Family in Three Acts, featuring the photography of Latoya Ruby Frazier.

Time opens and closes like a morning glory.
I am standing in one of the two tubs
crowded in my small bathroom,
sequestered by a curtain. I wear falling water.
There is always a choice. In the other tub
my mother takes a bath.
Her face is shuttered to me, but evidently
she is occupying her body again,
since she and my aunt are talking together about when
the barn burned down on grandma's farm
and Annabel the cat burned her toes rescuing her kittens.
In the back yard, Merlin the polydactyl cat
takes a powerful leap so he can fly
over the forty-foot lily pond.
Snow floods the withered earth,
but my car is as red as summer.
When I open the trunk my raised garden beds are inside,
brimming with kale, collards, and Swiss chard in mid-leap.
The trunk is also a cooler, and I lift out
translucent pitchers of water to give my sister
glass after glass, because I can feel how thirsty she is.
Possibly to tip the glass is to greet lotus pose.
How easy to realize the body is only a postcard.
One side shows a landscape with figures, and on the other,
under a vague postmark, someone has written,
Having a strange time in a strange place. 
Wish you were here.

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