"Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" are lines from an old bedtime prayer. I remember reciting it when I was a child. The skewed perspective reflects a child’s fear that the sky is falling through the skylight. The environment is filled with Christian and contemporary imagery. Goya’s witches cackle and sharks swim in the fish bowl. The pained Madonna glances toward the sleeping child.
My friend and collaborating poet, Maj Ragain wrote “A Dreamer Sails into the Land of Nod” in response to this painting. I am most grateful for his insightful verse.
“A Dreamer Sails into the Land of Nod.”
Sleep is a small death,
the child Rebekah a fish suspended
in a deep, shadowed pool.
A window opens near her head.
Beyond that a crucifixion,
a ghostly Christ nailed for flight,
drawn crossbow, ribbed arrow,
The long arc home splitting the way
to the tomb.
Toys anchor against the child’s
dreaming herself out of the world,
ragged stuffed totems, dumpling dolls,
stitched smiles, monkeyshines in darkness.
A face thrusts its way through the curtain,
the silver masked guardian, the sleepless
mother who broods over the down child.
a broom stick witch cackles her dirty magic
off the edge and gone.
What we see is the outer boundary
of the unformed, the nameless.
The center itself is empty,
no place to peg a climber’s tent
or hang a dreamer’s skull cap.
Every hungry ghost looks back
to this starving kingdom.
Jesus’ eyes are downcast
at the earth he does not wish to abandon.
The last dove of redemption
beats its wings against the glass.
The unseen presses against
the skin of this world.
In dream the floor is lifted
into the heavens.
Shoes float the Milky Way.
The nails of crucifixion are bent
into hooks to fish the starry sea.
Sleep, little pilgrim, held safe
in your blanket streaming
with morning light. - Maj Ragain