The Insomniac


Joyce Carol Oates

Fearful of going mad she painted a face
carefully upon her face,
and waited.

When joy threatened to overcome him he ran the bathwater hot
and filled the tiny room with steam.

Four o'clock in the morning and it’s impossible
to stare fixedly at the horizon-
the cure for motion sickness.

What has been your life? the rusted shears inquire,
hanging from a nail in the barn.

Your life? your life? a wind like a frenzied animal
running through the waist-high green wheat.
Night rises in a vertical plane.
Day, languorous flattened waves, a tepid wash,
barely wetting your shoes.

The insomniac prays to pillow and head
in perfection conjunction.

The insomniac puts his faith in sleep
as the supreme idea.

The insomniac is made to see all inconsequential things
spring forward suddenly,
as witnesses.

The question posed only at night, What has been your
life, and why?
dispelled briskly
by the morning news.

You wake at dawn after all, utterly refreshed.
A raw young wind pushes eagerly through your skull.