What Gets Through to Morning

Christine Holm

I. St. Brigid Watches Her Insomniac

How often has wakefulness wrested her

to leave the apartment for a 24-hour chapel

nearby? Twenty-nine unsettled nights now

and she’s ready to pray: after bar time, without

shoes so she can feel warm desert asphalt,

she genuflects before the light at the crosswalk

turns off its orange hand, lets her proceed.

Midnight-to-noon a Midwesterner living against

wheatless elevation, some nights she waits

for one, two cars to pass, pretending the road

is countryside and this 4 a.m. will become worked

by farmhands. Tonight she walks through

the church courtyard, pretends herself ghostlike,

fills her perceived transparency with piano scores,

still frames from silent films, melodies —

collage-cuts pasted to skin with the images

facing outward, backlit by a bit of whiskey and

a cigarette as it ashes.


II. The Insomniac Tries, Then Prays to Her Saint

Wait, and —

          or, start over.

How am I supposed to do this?

Dear God, it’s true: I don’t take

          those capsules for sleeplessness anymore,

                     but fill prescriptions all the same —

for the language of side effects,

          an education in chemicals, reactions.

A doctor recommended I test these within

          my bloodstream but, too,

                     I would have to open up.

I meant to plant pills in the vegetable garden,

          but then the tabby cat started coming around.

No doubt he’s sad too, but certainly

          in different dosages.

What wasteful thought, a prayer for

          shrubbery from the seeds meant

                     to lessen longing.

Almost, St. Brigid, I can keep time by phases

          of dawn until there is no darkness

                     in any direction.

It is nearing nautical, 11 degrees

          below morning’s horizon.

I know I’m not translucent; I happen to notice light.

Do other lives react to strangers’ kindnesses

          some different way?

A person offers space past the waiting room

          of melancholy and I bow my head,

                     appreciative, but shaking.

Oh, no thank you, I’ll save this possible comfort

          for a night more desperate, for —

                     what if there is, only, one offer

I can welcome myself into?

The bed has shaped to my silhouette, not my muscles,

          but no, thank you,

                     I’m yet just a bit more than bone-tired.

Brigid, if you were beside me, when would you

          first notice how starless the sky has become?

I think I misunderstood how long I would have

          to live with the mistakes of me, aftereffects

                     of a body fallen in on itself.

Maybe I’ve begun it, prayer: tiredness is a symptom.

I ask for us all to try open everything tonight.

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