There’s something really sweet about finding fine chocolate on your pillow (or so I’m told). It seems to me it can be misinterpreted, though, suggesting romance where perhaps none was intended (especially if the chocolate was left by housekeeping at your hotel). And this is not even to mention the complication of finding the chocolate after you’ve brushed and flossed for the night.
But finding a poem on your pillow, this is its own singular joy. A poem, well chosen, can speak with more precision, as well as fewer late-night calories, than chocolate.
With Poem on Your Pillow Day mere days away, we’ve gathered up 10 delightful Pillow Poems. Choose one, and join the celebration on May 3, surprising a friend, a child or, yes, a lover.
(Oh, and sweet chocolate, of course we intend no disrespect.)
Oh! Hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.
Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow;
Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas.
Morning, with your pillowed hands
twisting over the bed, do you envy
human desire, its midnight hinge,
covet our slack-jawed alpha waves
morphing to REM and then
a prance of neurons, an in-burst
of the invisible? All those covert
sleep spindles slowing the heart,
cooling the body—yes, we are
lapped ‘round with rest: one delta
astride a deepening river, one dream
richer than silt.
Poor Great Ante Meridiem!
Another graveyard shift, the looping,
half-world commute—no wonder
you snap the shade on its roller,
muttering, headboard to folded quilt,
that this life-size space we share is our first
and final host;
you rise alone.
And we bend, drawing the linens smooth,
makers of beds moving in tandem
toward that omega breath, unfazed,
plumped and glowing,
skins fragrant as June, tattooed
with our storied nights—oh, to be taken in
again and again and then, limp, fading,
folded away: two prayer flags, unpegged.
—Laurie Klein, from Where the Sky Opens
Hill Country Achilles
Your pulse beats blood against this pillow
each night, the sound in your ears
like footfalls through fresh snow tracking
back to a time in Texas when it fell
just frozen enough for you to step out
and catalog the memory of weather.
Cold can be beautiful when it falls evenly,
but most winters uneven chills cool porches
not doors, freeze begonias not grass.
Mornings frost fences and shingles,
while warm afternoons catch you all
flushing until you unzip thick coats
and wonder if memory serves up lies
like pie. Meringue could cover your town
beneath peaks that brown in the oven.
If you slice out wedges for guests,
they’ll ask for the recipe. Just smile.
Take their plate, all crumbs and sugar
splotches too shallow for forks.
The truth is you won’t remember how
you made that fluffy white. It couldn’t be
snow. Perhaps the puffed petals of winter
flowers, roses grown to tall green stems
in glass houses that hope for summer
nights when cicadas pray, “Sleep tight.”
—Marcus Goodyear, from Barbies at Communion
The cartographer married the exile,
tantalized by the taste of road
when he took her into his mouth,
wanted her, with that wander eye,
as if the last veil
was composed of miles
between them—the revelation
of contour, of gully and incline
in delicate copper, ochre, viridian blue.
She murmurs a litany between
the pillow hours—
Cebolleta—names he cannot find
on any map,
suspects are old lovers.
It is his delight
to name the constellations crossing
in his own language,
to watch weather
shape them back again
to what she knew,
to what he guesses
her landscape was.
—Anne M. Doe Overstreet, from Delicate Machinery Suspended
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow‘d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
Giving Way to Autumn
When we made love,
time disappeared into a knapsack
you lugged over the Big Piney River
and made a pillow of later
when coyotes crafted the dark
into shrill C notes desperate
to dart below the treble clef.
On blond pine needles
our backs, arched like logs,
host a cosmos of beetles,
brittle wood, and moss warm
between our legs.
—Dave Malone, from View from the North Ten
Poetry 101: Cataloging
All day I have been tapping out words, trying to catalog
my love for you. I’ve been sketching where the type would go
and the images—Bratz, Tonkas, a red truck that takes off
without pushing, after just a bit of pre-winding against a warm oak floor.
I’ve been shaking words into phrases that could go under little squares
on catalog pages; squares of silken ties, underwear, tube socks
and, surprisingly, Martha Stewart pillows (throw, in all the latest
catalog colors; this year it’s yellow, which is far too bright
for how I feel…a catalog should never steal my love by pushing
the commercial sense of hue and shade on I-love-you; I tried those
too, you know—notebooks stamped I love you, with bubble hearts,
balloons, and ungodly purple butterflies). No matter how I listed,
squared, adjusted like a quintessential Sears, nothing seemed to finally do
what a catalog of broken lines should somehow, without measure, do.
—L.L. Barkat, author of Love, Etc.: Poems of Love, Laughter, Longing & Loss
The Land of Nod
From Breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.
All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do–
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.
—Robert Louis Stevenson
With a sly Smokey
Eye, she promises to me
A steamy night’s sleep
Bey of Revenge
So much depends
whose it is, where.
be revealed. Bey’s
chat’s no cheater’s
enough, break her
hive swarms and stings
—Maureen Doallas, author of Neruda’s Memoirs
Share photos of your pillow poems with us on Twitter at @tspoetry
Photo by Pat, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Poems appeared previously in Every Day Poems with permission of the poet or publisher, appeared in our community poetry writing prompts or are in the public domain.
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro