Learning the Hour, 2008

I am learning the hour of three a.m.
the chill in the living room
until I start the gas fire hissing
dark pressing down on my eyelids.
Wrapped in a cream blanket
so tired, but restless, unable to sleep
she hasn’t slept for hours
with the ache in her jaw
small, sharp pains stabbing up
hurling her from sleep to whimper
then howl, in the cage of white wood slats.
He takes her from her crib over and over
soothes her back to sleep
but only resting against the warmth
of a body can she drift deeper,
beyond the reach of the small, new bone,
cutting through tender flesh. At three a.m.
I take pity on him. Climb out of bed
to say ‘go to sleep — I’ll take the baby’
the living burden shifts from arms
to arms. I carry her carefully
down the wooden stairs; we settle on the couch
to whispered shushings, songs of sleep
fingers grazing the softness of her cheek.