How to Wake Up

Brian Leibold

Swing your legs from mattress to carpet, 
stand up, get dressed, move
from bedroom to kitchen,
light the stove,
fill the kettle with filtered water
and place it on the blue flame,
play a game of pinball with spinning eyes,
win by not spinning out
if you fail to light at once upon
the only needful thing in glass
this grave and early hour,
pour boiling water
over roasted grounds, 
stir and endure
four long and forlorn minutes, 
press the plunger, and now pour
the rich black coffee into the clean white mug,
never the red one that recalls
the rushed and grasped
after bliss you achieved
after all, 
but unhappily ever after
those weak-kneed June mornings
when the force to swoon
was strong in you. This morning
is the single morning. You are, as of today, 

Bring your mug to the desk
and rest it on steadfast wood. 
Ignore the beginnings
of thought-indictments:
self for lack of steadiness; 
soul for lack of evidence.
Remember wood rots, 
and look out the window. 
It may be winter; even so, 
the slim ray of cardinal sky.
The slightly bitter brew you sip, 
dark holy water for the body,
washing away the sins of sleep
from dead-tired red eyes. 
Sleep no more, taste and see
how simple it is to hear,
to attend to the voice of a chickadee
that sends you outside with its song
and along with your seen breath
disturbs your half-sleep. 
To wake in full
will take a life of meaning
made new each morning
at the desk

upon which your elbow leans, 
on which your other hand,
long held sinister,
holds steady now.

Blank page, black pen, steam still from the coffee. 
Empty mind blindly attempting to deter
any direct penned penetration
or sad-to-be-hidden side door entry
into its brittle pitiful cut-glass cage.
Why oblige this gaunt and ingrown
mass of sundown groaning
that was never designed
to design the way out.
Resisting its resistance
is a soundless, stilted dance,
motionless funeral waltz
between the pair of chaired shadows
and the standing stunned widow, 
shut window beside her stressing
by transparent reflection
her God-given isolation, 
to dress up or redress
its viewed truths: it is dark
outside; she is, as of tonight, 

You are, as of this morning, 
at work, the door closed
until the silence strikes
your ears open, and you hear
the green river that livens
and flows through
this withholding cloud
of a book-racked cell.
Remain here, and walk
through this desert, 
lie in the dry wash, 
lay down your arms
to the earth, 
place your hands
on the burro’s bones
by the cottonwood tree, 
hear your heart beating hard
into the heat of sunned stone, 
sense the small
sand-colored lizard crawl
down your legs to your feet as they sweat
a good foot under golden expanse.
Dive into your thirst
like this, and dig down.
Remain here, below ground, 
until the hour strikes
your ears open, and you hear
the flow you need, the life
you only can hear
from beneath, deep beneath
the thirst-stilled land, 
the sound
of water.

For this, the only need,
your eye sharpens,
your hand holds steady, 
and your mouth closes,
for now.

Brian Leibold is a writer who was born and raised in Virginia. He holds a degree in Wilderness Therapy and Creative Writing from Prescott College, where he wrote and edited for the school newspaper, The Raven Review. He recently returned from a month of doing hurricane disaster relief work in Puerto Rico, serving as an Americorps member for the Great Appalachian Valley Conservation Corps. Brian enjoys running at dawn, dancing at night, and listening to the wind in the trees in the time in between.