The Opposite of Nighttime

Awakened by thunder, I lie in the dark
Yet here in the dark I cannot lie.
All that by day was dim, is stark
when here in the dark by night I lie.
There was a dream but I can’t recall
what I was doing there at all.
I was in a dream but lightning caught fire
on the hem of the dream and I awoke.
I tried to remember, but no longer tired,
forgot the dream as the thunder spoke:

“What are you doing? Where do you stand
among all the dreams that by day you planned?
There was a day but you can’t recall
what you did yesterday at all.
Thousands of words in a drift of sand.
Thousands of deeds in a drift of sand.”

The clock ticked its questions, the skies told time.
The stars behind clouds called my bluff, and this rhyme
got twisted up in my blankets. All asunder
went my plans for tomorrow.
Continued the thunder:

“Your dreams are but dreams, by day or by night.
How is your wrong all that different from right?
Wake up! Go to sleep! It’s all the same thing.
You dream you’re awake and awake when you dream.
Your days fly by on ego’s wings,
Your days are filled with empty things.
Thousands of thoughts in a drift of sand.
Thousands of moments in a drift of sand.”

I switch on the lamp and Reader’s Digest
fills up my mind with American dreams.
At last, determined to get my rest
I turn it off.
It’s strange. It seems
that what in the light is easily denied
in the night’s too bright for me to hide:
The only kindness I do that’s kind
is the kindness I do with You in mind,
my only words less false than true
are those I know are heard by You,
the only ground that does not slide
away from my feet like sand on either side
is the ground I walk in search of You.

The hours drag by, but at last–what’s this?
The darkness is blowing a goodbye kiss,
and now at the window a tentative dawn
is whispering greetings.
The stars are gone.

As morning gropes softly with long pale gloves,
I linger back to the sleep my heart loves,
and when I awake, curtains lifting on a breeze
inform me the day has arrived.

Oh, what a tease
that darkness! How heartless thunder’s anger,
scaring me like that
when there was really no danger.

About the Author
Sarah Shapiro is an author and editor whose books include "Growing With My Children: A Jewish Mother's Diary," "Wish I Were Here: Finding My Way in the Promised Land," and "All of Our Lives: An Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Writing."
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