Pocket Guide to the Architecture of Sleep

Jen Karetnek offers this poetic narrative in homage to her stay in Betsy’s Writer’s Room, Summer 2012.

A reasonable person might suppose that a good night’s sleep is built from the ground up, and explored from the top down. That dreams are stored in the attic, just under the barrel tiles, next to the grade school diplomas and prom gowns so pink they glow through boxes, and the deep waves (where mouths are dustpans for drool) are shelved in refinished basements with structural—not ornamental—pillars like dust-lidded jars of violet, pickled orbs, put up from the garden by old women of the ilk I have already become—

A reasonable person might suppose that a good night’s sleep is earned by the body’s daily destruction: staircases fumbled and door jambs misjudged, Olympic-failing floor routines in the vacuum category. Plus the amount of effort it takes—in the gym? on the tennis court?—to digest that lobster Cobb salad with poached egg and Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like a meadow of blue morning light—

A reasonable person might suppose that a good night’s sleep is bought by deadlines filed, by arguments sorted and folded in the bureau drawers, by secrets swept free of the Art Deco cornices like cobwebs to catch in the blinking draft of the fan before settling to the termite-scarred Dade County pine. By the oversize French doors firmly stopped against the night and the tomcat, tired from hunting rats under the gothic-armed mango trees. By the children, freed from the mounting ziggurat of social media, in their own rooms and breathing evenly. The husband, in a frieze of bill receipts and Reidel stemless glasses—

But a reasonable person might suppose that she could be wrong, night after night, waiting for sleep to download from the hard drive.  For renovation of the almost-image to visitation, the remodeling of particularly troubling nightmares. And a reasonable person could be left cooling on the portico for so long that only cyber doorways speak the language of design, while every poem wears the husk of a gargoyle—

*Note: The title is taken from a book, Pocket Guide to Miami Architecture, that I found during a residency in The Writer’s Room at The Betsy Hotel, South Beach.

Jen Karetnick
Writer in Residence