Psalms of sleep

Psalm 4. To the lead musician of Neginoth. Selah


Hear me plead righteousness, God;

as I increase I grow out of distress via you,

hear me singing this prayer.


All twists from truth when we lose good

to shame, and I can but ask all that is endless

against pursuit of vanity and profit, quietly doing our own thing? Selah.


And knowing the Lord has set aside a place

for those who are godly brings me hope of recanting this unowned space.

To hear the silence singing.


Out of my sleeplessness, I yearn for the world unfolding

without intervention of greed, and converse with this hope,

curled into a question without doubt as my distress rests in you. Selah.


To claim no special treatment in your less impacting ways

which are not less than many others – trust in grace to lighten the tread.


And when despair overtakes and the desire for more and more

sweeps in to offset a perception of lack, fill the lost’s faces

with the warmth of your face that won’t burn.


For all the temporary abundance of a reconfigured planet

the bright produce on trestles fades before your bounty.


And shedding anxiety and flames that light the darkness

of the room I close myself into searching for emptiness, I will

let go and embrace sleep in safety of renewal and hope, O Lord.



Psalm 13. To the lead musician


Will all time pass before you remember me, before you reveal

your face again, O Lord?


How long will the loss of the world around me fill my soul

make a forest of thoughts where there is no forest outside me?

How many days will pass while enemies of life offer life on a plate?


I need you to reach into the emptiness I feel with disaster

with collapse I need you to fill it with light that grows outside,

I need to be free of the death-in-life sleep.


Otherwise, the exploiters will say they bought my vote,

the profiteers will say I have validated their product.

But I know the wrongs of wealth and property will be seen

on the verge of calamity and I will rejoice with others in your generosity.


I will sing long and loud silently and outwardly

because there is still air to breathe and water to drink, O Lord.



Psalm 121. A song of steps


When the valley is under stress from gun and chainsaw

I look to the hilltops for a resetting of sunset.


Help comes to this location from all locations all over,

flowing in from the heavens over the earth.


But your foothold will never slip into the wastes

of the rapacious for matter is yours and never sleeps.


God of all the world of all peoples never slumbers

or sleeps and the message of a shared fate echoes.


There is sanctuary in the shade from the side

of house tree rock hills down through the valley.


And there’s time to slow and stop the burden of destruction

we have imposed on the sun and the moon – to live.


For the evil comes in so easily so readily via the consuming

of illustrations to decorate our living – our souls aren’t in those objects.


Step up to praise the sun but don’t mimic it, step down

to let others climb the same steps without manufacturing more – O Lord, forever.



Psalm 127. A song of steps


The house won’t stand without foundations of trust

and the town won’t work if people guard only their own.


The insomnia that racks your life is a strange greed of wakefulness

so difficult to shake in the lateness where body eats dark and light alike.


And children are the gift that is the tree of life, O Lord,

growing through wakefulness and sleep alike.


In laying down their weapons the once powerful become more powerful

in claiming no more than the rights of their own consciences, in not owning their offspring.


For the children are peacefully and strongly marching against the violence

and rapacity of those who rule over them, and they ask for a chance to be heard. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 6, 2021 as "Psalms of Sleep".

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John Kinsella is a poet, novelist, critic, essayist and editor.

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