A Charm for Sleep: An Annotation

By Tirzah Goldenberg April 8, 2013  |  Annotations, MFA, Poetry, Publishing, Writing  |  no responses

Rehm, Pam. “A Charm for Sleep.” Small Works. Chicago: Flood Editions, 2005.

What I admire in this poem (which pertains, really, to Small Works as a whole, as well as to The Larger Nature) is the poet’s sense of surety, her feeling of calm, a tone or bearing carefully measured out to ultimately form a charm for another’s sleep. Her offering is one that hears clearly at the outset: “Fear has an ear / in it.” Pam Rehm offers a charm to her reader, that it work its magic for sleep, for fear, for the ear embedded there and “laden / with beasts.” The poem feels like a piece of instruction, perhaps for a child but equally for an adult, yet has nothing in it of the didactic, only of care, of the measure of care. The poem’s wisdom determines the course and measure of the poet’s thought. As if simply the will or care to charm the frightened ear harbors in it the wisdom the poet, before writing the poem, can’t yet know, needn’t know upon writing it. For the poem is prophecy itself, a wisdom foreknown but not to the poet, a form which can only form in the process of writing and so charming our common ear. What the poet holds onto, I hold onto: “My fondness for a lamb // When I was small / I held onto a psalm // My balm was a lamb // Because night has a thing in it / that cannot be calmed.” She means to calm us by the deeply loved and so deeply heard thing in the world, the deeply heard and deeply loved word. And so the thing or word begins to echo, finds itself embedded or rearranged in others, feels itself within the creation of a charm, a chant, a spell for sleep. The poet knows that her own small, laden ear means another just as small and just as laden. It is this sense—that the poem’s offering requires another’s ear to receive and alter it—this sense which forms the poem’s own ear, embeds it here in the place of offering, the place between selves. The poem listens to itself and its prophecy alters. The poem is charmed.

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