In Bed With Nyla Matuk

I don’t eat and rarely read in bed, and there’s no TV or radio nearby. Years ago, I bought a cheap melamine-topped bedside table that looks like the kind of thing they use for hospital beds, because you can swing it around to hover over the bed if you have to eat there. But I don’t, and I would not.

I never wake up and jump out of bed immediately. I think about the vicinity, which happens most days: the wicker recliner on the balcony I never use, the yellow 1950s apartment building across the alleyway, and the brown and red canna lilies in the front garden of the large heritage-designated house that’s attached to the low-rise building where I live.

The red wall behind my bed and to the left is painted with high-gloss finish, to give a sense of bedazzlement and limitlessness. It works almost like a mirror in which you can’t see your own reflection but a boundless canvas of the possible comes to mind, an allegory of sex as an empty starting place onto which anything can be added. The Edison bulb in the cheap tabletop lamp casts a small bright star onto the wall, a kind of illumination reminding me to make notes on thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I leave a notebook and pen on the little table so that those disparate ideas, images, and memories in my head that threaten to go supernova at any moment might be recorded. I rarely do make such notes, though I try hard to convince myself it’s important. But the notebook gets some traction when I carry it around in my purse.

For years, I had a tall, wide bookcase standing across from the bed. I’d sometimes lie in bed and just stare at the row of titles on the top shelf: Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida; Norman O. Brown’s Love’s Body; Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment; Mark Kingwell’s Practical Judgments; Mette Hjort’s The Strategy of Letters; Tillie Olsen’s Silences; Susan Sontag’s On Photography; Georg Lukács’ Theory of the Novel, etc. At the top of the bookcase sat several stuffed animals: a small black raven, a large black cat, an extra-large chick, a baby giraffe, a small brown bear, a small chick, the fox from The Little Prince, a medium-sized polar bear in a clown suit, a medium rabbit, a small puffin.

I have only one poster – it’s hanging on the glossy red wall to the left of the bed: a 1920s advertisement for summer opera which is a Japanese image suggesting The Mikado. The bed, a Queen, is equipped with four deep drawers where I store linen and exercise or lounging clothing, slippers, extra pillows. The mattress consists of superior-grade foam product requiring no periodic flipping. I started to sleep naked in the summer of 2016 when the weather was so unreasonable, I had no choice. Now I’ll never wear nightclothes again.


Nyla Matuk is the author of two books of poetry: Sumptuary Laws (2012) and Stranger (2016), both published with Vehicule Press. Her poems have appeared recently in The New Yorker, The Manchester Review, The Literateur, PN Review, and the New Poetries VI anthology (Carcanet Press, 2015).

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