I wake up with the intelligence of moss,

and not the brightest of mosses at that.

I study the stitching of the bedsheets

with a drowsy version of awe. I notice

the shifting patterns of lint held

in the sunlight. Only minutes away

from the seamlessness of sleep

and already there’s an autumn chill,

a tangle of shadows, a passel of dying

leaves at the windowpane. I’m un-

prepared for the profusion of things,

each with its own little spirit, its own

little spiel. The boundary between sloth

and pointless attention to detail

grows murky. A pencil rests easily

on a sill. A book stifles a cough.

A geranium pauses for emphasis.

The longer I’m awake, the more

they arrive, the separate things,

the particulars, with their hats

in their hands like mendicants,

like babies on the doorstep,

like penniless relatives

with stories so farflung and desolate

I’d need a heart of stone

not to listen.

Max Garland is the author of The Word We Used for It, winner of the 2017-18 Brittingham Prize. His previous books include The Postal Confessions. Originally from Kentucky, he is professor emeritus at UW-Eau Claire, a former Writer in Residence for the city of Eau Claire, and the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin. More of his works can be found here.

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