Putting a child to sleep is like entering a Zen kōan.
The child will sleep when you, yourself, are asleep in your heart.
The child will sleep when you no longer care if the child sleeps.
The child will never sleep.
Sleep does not exist.
To put my son to sleep I have to become
the Buddha of the Reverberating Universe,
I have to slow my heartbeat down so that it can speak
to my son’s heart, so that it can seep into his tired limbs.
To put him to sleep is a test: I have to be the reaching branches
of a Japanese maple, extending calm green fingers into his jittery veins.
I have to plane out the shivering lake of blood in my chest
like an enlightened carpenter.
I have to breathe sleep into him.
I have to take my teeth off edge.
I have to stop gnawing at the minutes that slip by.
I have to accept that time has no meaning. To take him into sleep
I have to be ready to be slow, to be unproductive.
I have to become my inverse self, my negative print.
I must be my lizard self: lazy, indifferent, hypnotic.
Each night begins with him spinning in his sheets,
asking questions that have no answer
in loud bedtime whispers, me ready to swear allegiance
to a pack of yowling werewolves
if I can just learn to love the night again,
if he can just please stop twisting.
But the answerless questions
become the answer in the end. Let’s think about that, I learn to say,
and that thinking is the ticket in,
the toppling tree in the dark forest we share.