Pretending to be Asleep

by Angie Mazakis

Feature image: Jean François Millet. Sleeping Peasant, c. 1865. The Art Institute of Chicago.

is like knowing exactly what you
are saying to me, but nodding,
yes, what else? anyway, as though,
I have never heard what you are saying before.

I have to purify from my appearance
appraisal and purpose,
my face distilled to stillness.
I have to guess when to genuinely tremble,
never having seen myself in sleep,
moving aimlessly beneath
awareness— I wager one
hand from the sheets,
toward nothing.
How does one believably breathe?

It’s like hearing words I was not
supposed to hear and just turning
in my chair as though I needed to reach
my arm this way, toward this phone,
toward anything, as if to say,
I am occupied; I was before.
It is all now exactly as I meant it.

I know that the blinds have just been turned;
I feel on my face a lighter darkness.
I cannot see whether or not you are looking.
And now, I don’t know where you are at all,
only feel the painful paralysis
against the sheets, the pressing
presumption of parameters.

It’s like entertaining the embarrassing
acquiescence that follows a reprieve,
the manic generosity and impulsive ease,
allowing the sharing of irrelevant secrets, even.

A roulette of movement shifts among light.
You could be any shadow.
I cannot bind my eyes tighter to contrive
absence. I loosen, rehearse an invention
on the other side of sight—
that everything is not altered
with someone else
in a room.

Angie Mazakis is the author of I Was Waiting to See What You Would Do First, a finalist for the 2020 Miller Williams Prize and published by University of Arkansas Press. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, Boston Review, The Iowa Review, Best New Poets, Washington Square Review, Columbia Journal, Indiana Review, Lana Turner Journal, Nat. Brut and other journals. She is a PhD student in creative writing at Ohio University.


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