Here’s the beginning of a sampling of the essays and new letters from my book, Letters to Strangers.
This is from a lyrics essay titled, The Comforts of Sleep, which centers around my relationship with sleep or my process of dealing with insomnia, anxiety and memories. I am quite fascinated with how living things let go of wakefulness and fall into sleep. Can’t we all relate to that?
After the kiss on the forehead, it’s lights out, it’s silence, it’s my pillow whispering into my ear: sleep time, dreamtime, quiet time. The shifting shapes behind my eyelids, the trees on the ridge-line of the mesas that outline I-25, turn into people, each distinct in form—men carrying apples, the red lumps bubbling from each bag like balls of yarn or the berries on Grandma’s tree that pop when you squish them between your fingers. Roman beauties draped in Tyrian cloth, adorning gold belts and olive wreaths, their heads pitched slightly backward. The wise man, a pipe wedged in the corner of his mouth, his beard grazing the ground, picking up pieces of the earth, the sun gushing through the space between each. One by one the shapes explode into photographic negatives, morph into an orb of light spinning farther and farther away from the back of my eyelids, deeper into the silence that spreads across my pillow.
After dinner it’s homework. After homework it’s Dad saying, about that time girls. After Dad it’s delaying the inevitable. After delaying it’s brushing my teeth, washing my face, changing into my pajamas. After changing for sleep it’s that kiss on the forehead and you laying belly up on the floor next to my bed. It’s hearing you breathe evenly and the ruffle of my sheets against my feet, sliding over one another. I can’t let go of your hand. It’s perfect. Mine fits inside like a glove. Your fingernails make crescent-shaped indents in my palms. How will I fall? To sleep without you? You see, Mom, you are part of the ritual and I need the rituals because I need you, the way you say everyone needs to sleep, the way sleep is a part of life.
But what about sharks? Why sharks? Always sharks. Under my shrine, my comfort automobile cruising toward sleep. Yes. There’s movement. There’s water, dark and pitted, waves like pockmarks. There’s movement. Underneath Highway 1. Seals, plodding doggedly, sharks offshore by 100 feet. It’s feasible. Not under my bed, not in my cocoon. But behind my eyelids there is water, always water when I float into sleep. It’s an island. It’s a raft. It’s logs tied together with rope stripped from bamboo stalks. It’s a sheet of glass. There is movement. Bands of robin-egg slicing from the darkness. Fins—two, three, four, five. An army, building, multiplying. There’s triangles everywhere, severing the waves, darting toward the raft, the glass, my flesh, swimming underneath me. Each vibration of the caudal fin flicks with pursuit, rocks my raft, the glass, my flesh. All those teeth sinking in, tearing, salt water flooding the gashes, the fear. Gaping jaws, held open by callousness, blood soaked gums, taunting, menacing. Great. White. Sharks. But there is no light, no whiteness here. Their teeth sink in like an anchor in the sea.