Sleep Eyes

by Marilyn Nelson
(Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas, 1953)

Santa can find you wherever you are.
So being transferred here in November
won’t be a problem, Mama says. Santa
will find us on this new base where Daddy
flies airplanes. Our new house is different,
and the land around this base is different.
The trees here are skinny and far apart,
wide fields of snow-blown stubble between them.
The only real people here live with me.
Everybody else is pale and faceless.
I feel as lonely as a prairie tree.
But Santa does find me. He brings a doll
I do not name. At night she stares at me
out of the corner with her blue sleep eyes.


Marilyn Nelson is the author or translator of seventeen poetry books and the memoir How I Discovered Poetry. She is also the author of The Fields Of Praise: New And Selected Poems, which won the 1998 Poets’ Prize, Carver: A Life In Poems, which won the 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, and Fortune’s Bones, which was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. Nelson’s honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, a fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Frost Medal. She was the Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006.

Nelson writes, “In 1953 I didn't understand why Santa would bring me an un-cuddly, scary doll with blond hair and blue eyes, instead of a doll who looked like us. Years later I realized that white dolls were probably the only dolls my parents could find to buy on a Air Force base in the middle of nowhere.”

Issue number: 
1.2