To Sleep on a Submarine
Elusive submarine sleep, I have sought you
In so many submarine places
When too weary to continue unending submarine work.
Sometimes I have found you in my rack,
A slice of horizontal phone booth with curtain and two-inch mattress,
Until work found me,
Or a submarine ascent stood me as much on my head as on my back,
Blood pounding to my head to drive you out.
Many times we have met in the Condensate Bay bilge,
The cold, curved steel rib of the submarine gently hugging my back,
Rocking us lazily as the condensate pumps hummed,
Lulling us together with their placid song.
Crawling places were best, but climbing places were good too:
Recumbent rendezvous perched on an out of the way branch
Of seawater pipe, selected for having a pleasing shape
And a bit of insulation;
In the Cathedral, the space between the main engines,
Steamy and hot, loud through two sets of ear protection,
And oily through two handfuls of paper towels, but private,
It’s unaccommodating qualities as much as its Gothic steel arches
Making it sanctuary;
On the Nucleonics Laboratory floor, seamless, spotless blue,
Door locked, head propped on a pillow of rolled-up yellow
The glare of fluorescent light off of decontaminable stainless steel
Walls, doors, ceiling, and countertop invisible through closed eyes,
The frisker ticking in time to background radiation
Like rain on a windowpain;
There were other secret places, or maybe Top Secret,
Where Need to Know shrank before need for you, a need long felt,
But not with the same passionate intensity as aroused
By our forbidden tryst.
My marriage to submarine work suffered as work became more demanding,
More conscious of lapsing interest, jealous of you.
Deprived of you, sometimes from necessity, sometimes out of some
Other’s malicious whim, I grew jealous too as you came to others
With more time and fewer responsibilities.
Still, you pursued me, waiting patiently, hours or days at a time,
To finally seduce me, again and again.
The marriage eventually crumbled, and I am now freer
To wrap myself in you.
Submarine mystique still draws its lovers,
But I shall always need you, Sleep, more and more until death,
And then only you.