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Night Sweat

By Robert Lowell


Work-table, litter, books and standing lamp,

plain things, my stalled equipment, the old broom---

but I am living in a tidied room,

for ten nights now I've felt the creeping damp

float over my pajamas' wilted white . . .

Sweet salt embalms me and my head is wet,

everything streams and tells me this is right;

my life's fever is soaking in night sweat---

one life, one writing! But the downward glide

and bias of existing wrings us dry---

always inside me is the child who died,

always inside me is his will to die---

one universe, one body . . . in this urn

the animal night sweats of the spirit burn.

Behind me! You! Again I feel the light

lighten my leaded eyelids, while the gray

skulled horses whinny for the soot of night.

I dabble in the dapple of the day,

a heap of wet clothes, seamy, shivering,

I see my flesh and bedding washed with light,

my child exploding into dynamite,

my wife . . . your lightness alters everything,

and tears the black web from the spider's sack,

as your heart hops and flutters like a hare.

Poor turtle, tortoise, if I cannot clear

the surface of these troubled waters here,

absolve me, help me, Dear Heart, as you bear

this world's dead weight and cycle on your back.




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