Judith Root (b. 1944)
After years of sleeping
like a rock, you wake up
one night with an itch.
Bored with the moon's slow arc
moving light squares along the wall,
you trade quips with your insomnia.
How much you have in common.
You meet secretly, until you depend
on its visits, wait for it
with cognac and English ovals.
But it comes and goes at odd hours
with lipstick on its collar
and a hollow stare when you say
Sarah, Melissa, or Sue.
Fans of mascara stain your pillow
and you beg sleep, your old lover,
to take you back.
Too late. Insomnia's burrowed
like hundreds of tiny organisms
under your skin. To them
you are the earth. They divide
into tribes and roam your body
searching for the right spot
to settle down. The itch means
they've just discovered fire.
2007: Oh Yet We Trust by Alfred Tennyson