Insomnia Poem

Dexter Booth


Ashley has two children with names.

She had a baby in high school,

When we all thought she’d never lose her virginity.

I check my email at four in the morning

to find that one child is six, and I feel

I’m going blind. I take more vitamins

than I have teeth. I can’t sleep

more than two hours a day. It’s always 2004,

my grandmother is dying:

Aunt Marion cries,

It’s just not her. I don’t know how

I’ll bury my mother.

All I have are my hands,

pushpins to keep a sheet over the window:

it’s night forever if I don’t walk outside —


It’s Sunday. I’m alone

in my body.


Trina was pregnant too,

for a while. The rumor is still that

she threw herself down the stairs:

she couldn’t afford the abortion.

It was her “happy accident,” like

the fifth cigarette I put out on my arm before

jumping into oncoming traffic.

The rumor is

deaths come to us, like ideas

in the shower, but I couldn’t wait.

I knocked my head against that door,

dumb as a woodpecker. I carried my grief

like a child huddled and shivering

in the belly of a nightmare

for a while: I kept my word. Portia,

listen, a note pinned to the collar,

a mangy, wandering dog. I slept

in the corner of my body, afraid

the light was a vicious, hungry animal

that flaunted

my voice.

The things people said:

depression isn’t real.

You’re too damn smart

to feel this sad. You have to make it up,

the time you’ve missed, the reasons

you’re trying to leave. The Lord

God will guide you back.

God, how could you do this

to your poor family? God,

you’re being so selfish.


          God —

I was expecting you to bring me jeans,

my Spider-Man shirt, not the blinding orange

Bible, pages thin as the voice of L., who is still always

hanging herself in the early conversations of birds

in the room across the hall as I dream. Some truths burn

like houses and the people who run back into them.

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