Home > Chapbook Finalists 2010 > Sleep Song

Sleep Song

August 23, 2010

from Do Not Go Gentle by Jill McCabe Johnson

If whales can find themselves in the wrong passage,
directionless, swimming in their sleep, then who is to say
we are not floating in our own slumber, years into emptiness
with nothing but the day-in, day-out, sway.

Combing through tide-swept marriages, we pluck remnants.
The strewn toys, refrigerator schedules, plans to go camping,
and the promise of a second honeymoon ebbed.
Whales do travel in their sleep. Passive echolocation

alerts them to rocks, ships, lost jobs, and the rank wounds
of the disgruntled dear. We sleep in front of the television.
We disregard tsunami tremors, and the salt-stained traces
of desolation. No wonder whales beach themselves.

No wonder they linger in the receding tide of whatever
luck that has carried them this far will now leave
them languishing among driftwood and broken shells.
Beautiful whales. Please, please, wake up.


Originally published by Sea Stories in their Winter 2009 issue.

Download the podcast

Jill McCabe Johnson is the recipient of the Paula Jones Gardiner Poetry Award from Floating Bridge Press, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, and is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska. Her poetry and prose have been published in various publications including The Los Angeles Review, Boston Literary Magazine, and Harpur Palate. Jill is the director of Artsmith, a non-profit to support the arts.