John Delaney


Babies would be naturals
but take a long time getting the hang of it,
with fits and starts and lots of crying.

Kids are reluctant
and plead to stay up past bedtime.
Often they’re too excited, prone to nightmares.

Young adults pretend
they don’t need much, if at all.
All-nighters are badges of honor.

Grown-ups juggle their choices—
to sleep with someone or be alone.
It’s not just sleep they’re after.

Seniors are perfectionists,
interrupted by having to pee.
Their napping is practice, nuance.

But experience and persistence pay off:
everyone eventually learns how to sleep 
so that nothing will ever wake them up.

In 2016, John Delaney moved out to Port Townsend, WA, after retiring as curator of historic maps at Princeton University. He’s traveled widely, preferring remote, natural settings. In 2017, John published Waypoints, a collection of place poems. Twenty Questions, a chapbook, appeared in 2019, and Delicate Arch, poems and photographs of national parks and monuments, came out earlier this year.