“Recumbent, Sleeping” by Reynolds Price

You’ve hauled me up and down the rocky island
Through blinding sun and swelter. Indoors again
In my room’s dry dim cool, you topple back
On my wide bed and nod off instantly—
Two decades older than the you I loved
In that long summer of our first communion
And only better for the time consumed:
Calmer, sure of all your rangy hungers
But undiminished (eyes and hair and limbs).
okI know your present skin and mind will take
Whatever I might offer now in tribute—
My hands, lips, music, all my tantric stunts,
Verse improvisations grand as Homer.
In thanks, I merely sit and tend your sleep.


“Recumbent, Sleeping” offers a portrait of a longtime couple that has gained enough of a sense of mutual understanding in order to bring utter “calm[ness]” and comfort to the relationship. Though the experience of “two decades” of commitment involved navigating “rocky” terrain “through blinding sun and swelter,” a “dry dim cool” place has presently been reached in the relationship. The volatility of “blinding” passion has “dim[med],” leaving behind a love, “undiminished,” that is expressed through a thankful tenderness in which the lovers totally accept one another.
……Reynolds Price was an American writer whose works included poetry, plays, essays, and novels. He was the James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University, and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He served as a contributing editor for the Shenandoah, and received an honorary doctorate from Washington and Lee.
……“Recumbent, Sleeping” was included in Shenandoah’s Strongly Spent collection of poetry (Shenandoah, 2003).