WITS Voices: All the Warm Night, Sleep in Moonlight

By Ann Teplick, WITS Writer-in-Residence

Sleep in a field of salmon peonies. A rooftop with saxophone jazz. A sand dune with peacocks. All the warm night, sleep by the creek with its burble, the sheep with its fleece of charcoal, the sister who whispers “Let’s launch the canoe.”

All the warm night.

As a child, all the warm nights, growing up in Philadelphia, I slept in a treehouse made of triangles, built in the English Beech in our backyard. I slept standing up in my mother’s seersucker robe, scented with tears and lemon. I slept with a necklace of baby pearls that hung to my belly button, and with a rabbit’s foot in each hand, toes crossed, waiting for the ticket out of a childhood laced with a lisp, loneliness, castor oil, and the effervescent fear of death.

All the warm night.

As I grew older, I had the good fortune to discover a Swampy Cree poem by Canadian Jacob Nibenegasabe, which I’ve memorized, recited to loved ones, and kept folded under my pillow until the grain of paper softened into duck fluff. I’ve kept it through every packing and unpacking, a poem that continues to be the candle that glows my home, wherever I land.

all the warm night

sleep in moonlight

keep letting it
go into you

do this
all your life

do this
you will shine outward
in old age

the moon will think
you are the moon

Who would not want to drink the moon’s light? And glitter its kiss to the world? Who would not want to become the moon—in its newness, crescent, half, and gibbous?

This winter, when the moon was clouded by a scrim of gray, I invited my students at Seattle Children’s Hospital to open the door to Nibenegasabe’s poem, and to step inside. We took turns reading the poem, and then we read it together. We considered our first thoughts—it’s a short poem, an Instructional poem. We liked the idea of a warm summer night in Seattle’s February. We thought about some of our own warm summer nights—where we had been, what we were doing, and who we were with. We agreed that the moon might think we were the moon, if we continued to absorb its light, and then we thought about reflections from moons, lakes, mirrors, and window panes. We considered the poem’s color. Some said teal; some, a mossy green; one said, the color of a blue bell; one, blue steel. One asked, “What do you mean color?” (Big smile.) We considered the poem’s sound, and came up with snail glide, the stirring of leaves, the hushhhh of a mother putting her baby to bed, the sound of mist, and the metal-on-metal of train wheels in the distance. We considered the poem’s texture, and brought into the mix the belly of a Poodle puppy, cotton balls, raspberry bubbles in a bubble bath, finger paint, and the puffs of a gone-to-seed dandelion. We decided the poem felt like a blessing, and that perhaps we could be inspired to write a poem like this to ourselves, when we were worried, anxious, fidgety, and in need of a layer of moon to wrap ourselves in. Here are a few of the poems—and all of them, moons.

A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT (age 12)

All the warm night

Sleep to the lullaby of rustling leaves

Imagining white soft sand
And the sound of crashing waves
And swaying palm trees.

Standing there, looking out to the ocean
And wondering what life is out there.

Wishing I could walk
Into the body of blue, and explore.

CARS AND DREAMS (age 17)

All the warm night
Sleep in my comfy bed
With Memory Foam
In my brand new house.

I dream about Hawaii
And Rainbow Drive, In’s
Fried chicken and Loco Moco
That’s waiting for me to come back.

And I wonder when I’ll save up
Enough money to buy my own ride.

And I wish one day in the future
I’ll own my own Subaru WRX
Cruising down the streets of Waikiki.

ENDLESS NIGHTS (age 16)

All the warm night

Sleeping in an open field of hay

Dreaming of a place afar

And I wonder when I’ll get there

And I wish that time was near.

All the warm night

Listening to crickets sing

Tossing and turning, unable to sleep

And I wonder why I feel this way

And I wish it will get better.

SUMMER DREAM
A group poem

All the warm night
The mosquitoes flitted everywhere, basking in the cocoon
Camping late at night with friends and family in the mountains.
The owl flew into my heart and onto my eyelash,
I slap away, tossing and turning,
Like in an endless dream.
The dancing pulled me to places I’d never been
And always wanted to go,
Like traveling all across the globe.

DREAMS OF HAWAII

A group poem

All the warm night
On Hawaii’s coastline,
Don’t forget your compass or else you will be found.
Travel around the world like a bird soaring through the sky,
Like an octopus grazing the ocean floor.
The vacuum cleaner clings to the carpet swallowing all of the dust,
All of the tiny molecules are scared they will be sucked away
Into the mouth of the Great White whale that is snoring.

SUMMER’S NIGHT
A group poem

All the warm night
The butter cake melted, leaning dangerously.
The rhubarb pie needs two more cups of maple syrup.
I squeeze my eyes from all the bitterness
Hoping to wake up to a bright morning
With buttermilk blueberry pancakes, sweet Italian sausage
And hot coffee!

ALL IN A DREAM

All the warm night
The crickets hum their goodnight song,
And while the birds slept
The alley cats crept close.
Late at night when the street lights were on
And the shadows took the shape of crows and crocodiles,
I run in fear, screaming, like something is haunting me
Until I awake.

MIDNIGHT

All the warm night
Sing to the turtles who walk out of the sea

While fish float through a body of blue.
The sailors dream above,
The seagulls swoop below, hoping to grab a fish.
The fisherman try to shoo away the birds
Who squawk like a herd of trombones.
I plug my ears and cover them, so they are protected.

All the warm night.


ann_headshot_cropped.jpgAnn Teplick is a poet, playwright, and prose writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. For twenty years, she’s been a Teaching Artist in Seattle public schools; Hugo House; Coyote Central; and Pongo Teen Writing, at King Co. juvenile detention and the Washington State psychiatric hospital.

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