Spelling your name, 3 drafts

Last night I fell asleep under only a sheet. There was a chill rain all night, and my windows were open. Later I woke from the cold. My right hand was tracing the name of the man I love in the sheets, which was surprising and memorable.

The connection effect was potent. Even after I was warm in a comforter, and falling asleep again, I continued tracing his name. This wanted a poem to tell it. Here are three drafts:

(draft 1)

Last night I woke
(I don’t know when).
It was cold-wet outside,
and I needed a quilt.
My left cheek smiled
in my left hand’s palm.
Here you were.
My right hand’s fingers
spelled your name
on cotton sheets’ folds.
Your first name, thus,
soft, with one finger,
the rest of my hand
Your surname I made
with two fingers
faintly tracing
cuniform lines
An hour
I spent
spelling your name.
Between rounds
I was touching your face.

(draft 2)

It was cold-wet outside.
I needed a quilt,
so I woke
(don’t know when),
and found myself
spelling your name
in the folds
of the sheets.
I tried it again,
now the surname,
two fingers, apart,
tracing your angles’
cuniform graves,
joining, unjoined.
Spelling your name
for an hour or so,
sometimes my hand
held your face.

(draft 3)

The lyrical act
of spelling your name
in the folds
of the sheets
is a poem,
a poem.
How else
can I tell
how I woke
in the night
needing a quilt,
and found I was
the cuniform grave
of your name
in the soft
cotton folds,
how it felt,
the given
and surname
both different,
both yours,
and how
my hand
held your face?

The finished version is here and here, as well as at Grafetti.

I’m not completely OK with the finished version. But I like its percussiveness, how that quality offsets the emotional nature of the poem. The ending of the finished version is too meolodramatic and off the beat.

© 4 May 2009, Heather Quinn, all rights reserved

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