Seeing My Way to Rest

Photo by Leonie Fahjen on

As I hinted in my last post, I had an unforeseen trip to the optometrist last Wednesday. What I initially thought was a pernicious eyelash playing hide-and-seek beneath my eyelid ended up being a two-day ordeal that led to the removal of a minuscule calcification that had been abrading my cornea. And though I can’t say I ended up using that down time to relax in a hammock suspended between two trees, I did discover what I have affectionately termed “enforced rest.”

If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you will know the theme of rest and fighting to find it is nothing new to the deepening ground. In fact, one could argue that I started this site for the sole purpose of “enforced rest,” though I have not been as faithful to that vision as I had hoped. It’s easy to let the worries and cares of life choke out the time and space for tabernacles of creativity. Modern life tends toward constant activity; rest is a commodity most of us seemingly can’t afford, yet deep down we all know that we can’t afford to go without it.

And so sometimes we find ourselves in a place of “enforced rest,” where we have no other choice but to yield to respite. And, really, I think that’s a gift in many ways, from which can spring new life. For me, this wrench in the works led to six extra hours of sleep, time to simply be with my family, and poetic inspiration. In the following poem, I reference the authors I was teaching at the time: Charles Dickens in British Literature (A Christmas Carol, of course) and Theodore Roethke: a timely convergence, for sure, thematically. I even draw a few lines from Roethke’s poem “Dolor” as well as Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner in my closing. Admittedly, it’s still a fight to chose rest in the midst of the chaos of daily living, but hopefully we all rise “wiser the morrow morn,” more determined to rest and share the life that comes from those unforeseen deepening places.

Enforced Rest

Vincent H. Anastasi - 2021

Morning arrived just like any other in December dark;
routines like steam engines starting
stopped short,
derailed by something in my right eye.
To no avail, I sought to dislodge
the foreign object,
flushed and bathed my eye,
then chuffed off to work
where I limped through the day
elucidating Roethke and Dickens,
blind to the source of my ills:
a calcification embedded in my eyelid
abrading my cornea.

A new dawn, and I discovered enforced rest.
Hard stop. Six extra hours of sleep.
Unable to see, there was no choice,
just willing surrender -
liberation from the cruel engineer exhaustion.
The optometrist saw the unseen,
flipped my lid and removed the irritant,
tending to the abrasion;
he set me free to return to routines, rails, and Roethke.
But having learned, I turned
from "desolation in immaculate public places"
and "long afternoons of tedium."
Like Coleridge's wedding guest,
I rose wiser the morrow morn
determined to let the lesson
of enforced rest lodge
forever in my inner eye.

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