(Oil painting, 1889-90, by Vincent Van Gogh)
There’s such a thing as honest sleep. Hard-earned,
For which each muscle, each articulation aches,
Just as delicious, in its way, as making love.
She’d asked to work beside him for the day,
Stooping a pace or two away from where he stooped,
Making the magic-balanced sickle sing a counterpoint
To his unfailing rhythmic tune, advancing with him,
Toppling ranks of brittle, sapless stems,
Loving the ease with which a roll from hip to hip
Would slip the blade through all those frangible defences.
With noon’s heat pressing heavy on his back he’d raised his head,
Lifted the brim of his felt hat to watch the grace of her.
“Siesta-time,” was all he’d said, but she had loved
The way he had elaborated with his eyes.
The last few drops of moisture steaming up
From stubble and from earth were thick and musty
Like the smell of sex, as they lay down together
In the hay-rick’s inefficient shade. Of course,
In spite of all the heat within their blood,
There was no question here of consummation,
Not with other sweating bodies scattered
Round the field. Not here, not now, although
Their workmates’ half-averted eyes could see
How this would end, how honest sleep may generate
Dishonest dreams, and how, one day, these two
Would find themselves alone, unable to resist
Their reckless leap beyond propriety.