They Are Sleeping

  • Aubade (Drizzle in the breathing world)
  • Aubade

    Drizzle in the breathing world.
    East of the city: ground growing cold.
    East of the interstate: racks of fog
    over ditches, a few openings of light
    when the older women speak.
    All these circuits of pleasure—a glass of water
    spills, a collar is folded. Pollution buries itself
    deep in the principal night, tender and senseless.
    Dawn-quiet through which the highway animals
    twinkle on and off as they step by. The waitress,
    the single spot of glass in the center of her eye.
    A menu lifts—we are scattering.
    Birds sing more quietly in the morning.
    And here, smokes of rain in the air
    through which we obscurely sense a mercy
    that is not ours. Voice,
    gathering weather like a long chronicle.
    People gathering in the promise
    to be seen. You can hear—
    it is the sound following a few pieces of rain.
    It is the shifting of sun in puddles, the air
    that slips a little from our mouths.
    Nothing we are is irrevocable.
    In the breaking calm we wore
    coats and held the open books
    without harm in our hands.

  • Aubade (Summer and winter over the lakes and earth)
  • Aubade

    Summer and winter over the lakes and earth.
    In silence the women slide over ices, lines
    dropping off their heels and the cutting sound
    of stops. Not
    this way
    they think under stars, although
    inside there is confusion, shame,
    materials for beginning, a body
    out of which comes everything that eventually
    cannot endure. Summers they sit
    with children reading black sea
    carries the ship
    until rain dents the mud.
    What calls us is not the riot of love
    but the hollowness that stays here as we
    lean into the words, white blanket warming
    at the work of such still bodies.

  • Aubade (The announcement comes)
  • Aubade

    The announcement comes when the light
    has spread a long while its thin
    privacy over the state.
    The children are playing or sleeping.
    The sequence moves from clouds
    to a slow, falling sorrow, a darkness
    that gathers in the eyes of children
    as the announcement arrives.
    We will build a house is their reply.
    And the quiet they sense is bright.
    Shadow or light, the children
    waver in their regard, poor
    and incipient. The state
    is poor. We live poorly, driven
    from house to house in a sleep
    that separates with gradual accuracy
    the child from its regard.
    But look, it says, an open field.

  • Aubade (The cold rolls its season)
  • Aubade

    The cold rolls its season at the empty glass.
    As I am alive a freedom delicately out of focus.
    Blushed, reluctant, a cold in the trees. In emptiness
    the winter I smell floating between trees.
    Windowless it vanishes in the treetops, brushes
    these white arms, which I feel and know but
    cannot recognize. Landscape of trees I breathe
    at blackened glass—deep enough, still enough
    not to be seen. Apple
    on the table scraping wind from outside.
    As long inconstancy can begin to feel beautiful.
    As bodies close the error of cold.
    Misshapen all I know the season sinking leaves:
    windfall, nightfall, several hours before snow,
    allowing all things the darkness they
    require. As sky releases everything it holds
    and nothing falling. We sleep
    in the light that we shed, we
    go on in darkness, and bear confusion
    weightless in our lungs as we twist and dreaming stall.
    Not yet broken by belonging saying Give me your hand.
    I will just know the feeling as I touch it.
    I will not hope—not pretend that it keeps.



“In Joanna Klink’s poems the limits of consciousness are constantly tried by the seductive enchantments of lyricism; clarity and mystery are not only brought close to each other, often they seem indistinguishable. Everywhere, a forceful, scrupulous intelligence is active—a luminous diction, a range of cadences. Everywhere, the burden of feeling is borne with ease.”—Mark Strand

They Are Sleeping is…so rare for a first collection, with a moving and complex tension between its lines and sentences, an engaging kaleidoscopic sense of diction, and a form of sequence to which the reader awakens and reawakens…Joanna Klink invents a new mythology for those ‘landscapes without particulars’—the unmarked natural spaces and cultural sites gone haywire—that separate what is American from what bears meaning over time.”—Susan Stewart

“Joanna Klink is a love poet. Love, like Tarot, is a game of chance where the stakes are souls. Under the sign of the Hanged Man—Le Pendu—true love comes to pass. Crucified upside down like Saint Paul—hero of reversal—the love-visionary turns hazard and sacrifice into finding and benefit. The presence of such poetry makes everyone—all the persons whom its beauty touches—NEW. This is the finding of an unmistakable poet—her gift.”—Allen Grossman

“These songs greeting the dawn are lamentations and celebrations all at once, and they epitomize the distinctive harmony that Klink has maintained in balancing extremes throughout this striking debut.”—Boston Review

“The lyric spaces of They Are Sleeping are shifting, slippery, plangent and persistent: they want to, but they just can’t sit still…Klink finds refuge in sequences, where she renders settings, characters, and concepts with an unflagging and varied music. They Are Sleeping is a moving and daringly philosophical first collection.”—Rain Taxi

“Anyone who remembers reading modernist poets such as Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot will find that Klink’s ambitious, intellective poems more than repay the work it takes to enter their world.”—Eugene Weekly

“Klink creates a lyrical sea-garden where ‘the wind clicks in the trees,’ a beautiful impressionism of slippery sounds and shifting subjects…Klink achieves resonance and music worthy of accolade.”—Verse

“[This is] beautiful writing, sensuous and troubling.”—Colorado Review

They Are Sleeping

University of Georgia Press