Other Poems by:

John Grey


I've got this insomnia so bad

I want to slip into some bar

somewhere and sleep it off,

my head hard against the juke box,

the songs playing three for a buck,

in and around me, like I play,

or maybe like she'll play someday,

this rock and roll girl

growing out of my ribs,

making me believe that's my choice.

I've got this insomnia making

animal noises in my brain,

not the chickens or asses

of cheap impressionists

but the beasts whose sounds

don't lead so easily to a name

even when they're reverberating

their harrowing lament through

my hi-fi bones or gunning their

bass notes up the conduits

of my restlessness.

I can't sleep because there's music,

because she hums these delicate

image-bearers in through the

cracks in my life.

Everything I hear, I seal in,

even the thing that won't let

me sleep, this girl all sticky

pads and gum drops, all Vaseline

and napalm wrapped up in her fingers,

and drums, all that suicidal

drumming screwing up my endurance

while I'm thinking she's not

doing this at all, that she's

perfume and alabaster and

bird sanctuary eyes

though I don't like the way

a lie sounds, angry and discordant,

like a tear in a rag-doll's arm.

Did I tell you about my insomnia.

It hits me long before I slip

under the sheets or under a rock.

It's not even late at night but I'll

be sitting somewhere rehearsing

my dreams and I'm suddenly

finding or prophesying,

no sleep to wrap around it,

whatever it is I want

not something I shake myself down into

but a microscope specimen

she holds up to the lens

of her brilliance,

warning me she can make it

all come true even before

I dream it, that whole mental

topology a waste, a wasteland,

its gifts mere sketches, blurs,

the scars of a distant water

table I no longer need,

because being awake is a volcano,

a rift, a tough jetting wind,

a dredge sucking up the mud

at the bottom of the basin,

a fist full of fingers jamming

their way into my palms.

It's her with a song

she wants me to play

that I know will come out

sounding just the way

she will someday.

I have insomnia big time

and I can't get drunk but

can't approach sober either,

not even from above like a rain-cloud,

like a busted helicopter,

my wings dazzled and frazzled

like an unshaven face.

She says she'll strip naked

in the patio breeze, skip

across the floor like a nymph,

like a dryad with roots

growing out of her thighs,

spongy leaves decorating

pale pink cheeks and

she'll roll gently in a bed

or drop from the ceiling,

be animal intense

or coy as the last weed

in a field.

I've got insomnia and

I stick my head in water

to drown it all away

but this is really her melted,

and I'm bouncing like rafts,

like soda cans, like instinct

set free from its narrow cave,

pawing at air, at time,

at the immolating flesh

that busts through the gums

to this impacted life,

rough as train rides

and soft as people who bathe

together in the druggy light

of sperm-kin afternoons.

She purrs like the touch

of amaryllis, or fish tails,

or kingfisher songs,

runs her fingers up and

down my alphabet,

falling easily into the vowels,

rubbing hard against the consonants.

I have insomnia,

the blown up, constellation kind,

enough of me not sleeping

to fill a sky, to paint a moon.

to lick the oil slick from a

summer night and flap it wild

and blinding on my tongue.

It is fear and love,

swallowing oxygen hard from a machine

or puffing it through a window,

clean and almost ivory,

disturbing snow with heavy feet

or watching it melt back into place,

calm and white as the skeletons of soldiers.

It is this demonstration of my nerves, my blood,

their placards, their marches,

across my body, this giant sea gull nest,

that hears the flapping of the wings

somewhere a bare breath out of sight.

I am awake so long I do not

remember when I last dozed,

when I wasn't lost to this

shattered glass scenario of doing

everything that can be used against me

as brilliantly as I am able,

when she didn't lie inside of me,

naked as oceans, as the jazz-like

brown of my heaving skin,

as pleats of feeling, as stillness

caught like a spider in a shoulder bone,

as slurred tense and the ringing

bells of finger nails orbiting

traffic light thighs.

I am the insomniac who wanders

the remote places, who swats

at life like a cow does flies

with a guitar-strumming tail,

lapping up the priceless

deformities of love

with ancient tastes

and vain full-measures,

my heart undoing her bra strap

like fingers, her mouth

roaring into me, leaving

jet trails down by neck,

my memory frigid as a skull

of ice, the present melting

it furious as a cat,

cracking the emptiness open

with a stick, with that careless

adoration of the amazing.

I sit up all night and play music,

as she fits into my life

like a guitar, her strings

violent and deep,

romantic as a French novel,

those intellectual truffles

I devoured as a teenager,

its shape, a Mexican woman

on a low-tide dune staring out

at the Pacific's blue-breasted

attention to detail,

and sometimes she picks me up,

cradles the insomnia

like it's a child,

strums a few chords

that expose sleep for what it is,

a weary charlatan bogged down by boredom,

nothing at all like us,

navigators of the pleasure boat,

her melody like throwing a shirt over

someone shivering and naked,

already forming itself

as she tips her face down

like a cup, pours herself onto me,

opening my eyes as wide

as carnival lights,

and I don't care how I played,

not really, my virtuoso hands

folding up like dancer's legs,

becoming ears, slipping into appreciation,

marveling at how it all means something

because, when it comes to rock and roll,

she's learning better

than I already know how.

**Copyright 2008 John Grey, all rights reserved Send us your comments on this article
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