O Sleep, I give up on thee.
Hast thou forgotten me?
The sheep I numbered are running free
past all pretense of profundity.
I can trace the path that brought me here,
but the way of return is ne’er so clear.
I taste what hath sought to steer
me from what I yearn to draw near.
O Sleep, now it seems I must succumb as into my burning brain I have plumbed
to reap my dreams for words to come,
my yearning plain, O shouting eyes, be struck dumb!
The sleeping dog at my feet jerks and barks, chasing away the monsters of dreamland.
They have kept me awake with their angry gnashing teeth, harsh words of hurt that will not release me, and I am left bruised and restless, another unwilling insomniac.
The morning dawns with its unresolved bitter rain.
The dog is calm, the creatures howling, running away into the dark woods of broken memories.
I gather the tattered remnants of my dreams around me, turn my face away from the storm-streaked window, and pray for elusive sleep.
Conversations spin on in the night without me.
They rumble in rooms I know not how to enter
and gather like sticky strands high up in dusty corners
where the wall and ceiling meet.
Caught up in the buzz, I hover above,
listening but not hearing the murmuring sound,
a fly with one shriveled ear and no compound eyes
torn between the almost-but-not-quite-lucid-word and the know.
I tremble on the web but the spider doesn’t seek me.
She remains in her lair to watch and to wait,
refrains from the poison bite while I am left to
wander among the cocooned carcasses of friends
blind and alone.
Written November 23, 1996 while at a Men’s Retreat
When the night is anxious and her hard cloak weighs heavy on me, I am a man whose desires swell in the belly, who is not privy to the time or place of their birthing.
Body weak, mind made useless by moving down reluctant paths to places where I do not wish to go, thoughts turning, always turning back into myself.
I leave my solitary pad, take this restless child in my stomach to the window to watch the night carry on without us.
Car wind, night breeze, your breathing in your own place of rest behind me mix with my whispered prayers.
Bathed in streetlamp light, I am spirit, a ghost of the man I once was, lost and faraway from the growing one within, from the life that is you in the bed behind me.
The ministry of mosquitoes brings my body back to me. Anger flashes at their desecration of my temple. But have I been less defiling?
Through the pinpricks, sleep comes without answers. The baby will not be born tomorrow, but she is one day closer to her birth.
Upstairs in the bathroom, after I have dressed and left the laptop on the dining room table, I hear the lonesome call of the 4am and the tell-tale rumbling through the open window. I think I must have heard it coming in my sleep.
I woke up to hitch a ride like some drowsy hobo.
Once it starts rolling in my head, there really is no stopping it. There are no depots on this track. My thoughts fill the baggage car and I’ve got to unpack each one before I can get off this train.
There are a lot of suitcases.
But I’ve done this long enough to know that there is a finite number of them and eventually I will reach the last one. My mind will come to its destination, I will hop off the train, and return to elusive slumber.
I am not the only passenger. The people I think about sit in the seats like silent ghosts. I carry on conversations with them (though I am really talking to myself), but eventually we, namely the myriad parts of me, reach some sort of understanding.
I know the conductor well. It is he who I must trust with my baggage, whose gentle hand will take my ticket from me if I let him, who will point me to the sleeping car after I have released what I do not need to keep.
And I can slowly tumble from these worries into sleep.
The coon is in my mind,
a shadow revealed by the porch light,
turning in circles in the back yard,
licking each blade of grass.
Is this behavior normal?
Is the creature sick?
Does it know that another masked insomniac
seeks something here?
Will it accept food from my hand if
I step from these walls into the night?
The visitor disappears and I am
reluctant to cut the light.
Will there be a second coming, a revelation of the wild?
I, awake with the questions, keep watch through the window,
feeling so much like an orphaned child.
In the morning the walnut tree has grown a different nut.
The neighbor dog has treed the coon.
They sit on limb and root
heads down in saddened state,
neither happy with this stalemate.
I open the door to join the inaction.
I seek some distraction.
The dog finds its own, rushing off for its morning dig
in the compost heap.
My nocturnal companion sees its chance,
moves head first down the trunk and
scampers off to sleep.
(originally written March 13, 2006)
Big blackbirds wake me in the morning.
I can hear them through the window and the door.
I wonder if I can drop back to sleep.
Quoth the Raven,
I awake groggy,
battered by too many
and words left unsaid.
I wonder at tomorrow,
haunted by what shout
of pain may await on
the other side of dread.
What I say seems to
make no difference,
lost in the arc of an
My insomniac wrestling
leaves me empty of
answers, like the twisted
sheets on my vacant bed.
I step into a cold,
silent day still trying
to turn down the
volume in my head.
The slats from the reading lamp cast shadowed prison bars on the walls around me. I wonder when my heart will feel again. I am so cold and Winter is coming. Everything that was so precious just doesn’t satisfy. Even you; your flesh is icy too.
There is anger in the night outside, voices screaming, and I wonder why I think my life, my dreams, are so important. Skeletons parade before my mind’s eye in blue and black and white, brittle and broken, a suffering child, once alive, now shadows dying. I feel guilt at my pain, the simple luxury of thought without concern for survival.
I could laugh at this prison on these walls gathered around me, but it rings hollow like my chest. The bars remain, and in some way, with them I feel safe, secure.
Until they disappear with the click of the light and the uncertain night falls fearfully and gently around me.
Written October 6, 1992