“…look you, this brave o’erhanging / firmament, this majestical roof, fretted / with golden fire…”Hamlet, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 323-325
Between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. each evening falls the mortal drowsy hour, at least for me. Upon finishing our bedtime routine with the six and eight-year-old, either my wife or I sit at the edge of their bunk-bed and attempt to read as they fall asleep. It’s almost a reward for making it through another day, a chance to hunker down and make some real headway in the current novel of choice. Usually, I end up dozing off shortly after my children, nodding over my book in the glow of my dimming headlamp, sedated by the melodies of Hidden in My Heart, Volume 1 (a collection of Scripture lullabies) and the white-noise of the fan in the hall.
Despite my exhaustion last night, I fought the good fight and managed to stay up long enough to find the comet Neowise in the sky. Even in our rural area, the light pollution made the task a challenge, but it was worth the barefoot adventure to the backyard with my twelve and seventeen-year-old. (I’ll admit, I needed their help in finding it!) Staring up into “this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2), I found myself, once again, tugged between the feeling of being overwhelmed and being completely insignificant. As a father, especially, I am no stranger to these sentiments. I either feel I’m not up to the task or my impact is negligible at best (or I’ve completely failed my children). And times like these don’t make parenting any easier.
That’s how I ended up revisiting “The Mortal Drowsy Hour,” a poem I penned last September. It metaphorically compares my circumnavigation through the house to look in on my sleeping children to the planets traversing around the sun. Although I battle with such thoughts of insignificance or inability, a lingering survey of the heavens reminds me of my essential place in the firmament of my family and community. And like those celestial bodies, I too radiate life that allows others to navigate by my light.
The Mortal Drowsy Hour – Vincent H. Anastasi (2019)
This is the mortal drowsy hour
when all about the firmament
awakes in mythic fires,
and while I stumble in the dark,
the gods traverse their element
unclouded by desires.
From room to room I drift and weigh
the insufficiency of time
in every pillowed head
while unremitting distant rays
my eyes amaze with truth sublime
and keep me from my bed.
I wrestle now with evening thoughts,
the unillumined cross to bear
pursuing unyoked rest,
and as they slumber in the dark,
this orbit of paternal care
pulls at my flooded breast.
I linger long, but I am bound
like planets tethered to the sun
to move through seasons sure
‘Till all of time spins to its end
and every father’s work is done:
we tarry here no more.