American Life in Poetry: Column 145

If one believes television commercials, insomnia, that thief
of sleep,
torments humans in ever-increasing numbers.
Rynn Williams
, a poetworking in
Brooklyn, New York, tries here
to identify its causes and find a suitable


I try tearing paper into tiny, perfect squares--
they cut my fingers. Warm milk, perhaps,
stirred counter-clockwise in a cast iron pan--
but even then there's burning at the edges,
angry foam-hiss. I've been told
to put trumpet flowers under my pillow,
I do: stamen up, the old crone said.
But the pollen stains, and there are bees,
I swear, in those long yellow chambers, echoing,
the way the house does, mocking, with its longevity--
each rib creaking and bending where I'm likely to break--

I try floating out along the long O of lone,
to where it flattens to loss, and just stay there
disconnecting the dots of my night sky
as one would take apart a house made of sticks,
carefully, last addition to first,
like sheep leaping backward into their pens.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation
(www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also
by the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem
copyright (c) 2007 by Rynn Williams, whose most
recent book of poetry is
"Adonis Garage," University of Nebraska Press,
2005. Poem reprinted from
"Columbia Poetry Review," no. 20, Spring 2007,
by permission of Rynn Williams.
Introduction copyright (c) 2007 by The
Poetry Foundation. The introduction's
author, Ted Kooser, served as United
States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry
to the Library of Congress
from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited