“Insomnia Etiquette”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 3 2012 6:00 AM

“Insomnia Etiquette”


Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Rita Dove read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

There's a movie on, so I watch it. 

The usual white people
in love, distress. The usual tears.
Good camera work, though:
sunshine waxing the freckled curves
of a pear, a clenched jaw—
more tragedy, then.

I get up for some scotch and Stilton.
I don’t turn on the lights.
I like moving through the dark
while the world sleeps on,
serene as a stealth bomber
nosing through clouds ...

call it a preemptive strike,
“a precautionary measure
so sadly necessary in these perilous times.”
I don’t call it anything
but greediness: the weird glee
of finding my way without incident.

I know tomorrow I will regret
having the Stilton. I will regret
not being able to find
a book to get lost in,
and all those years I could get lost
in anything. Until then

it’s just me and you,
Brother Night—moonless,
plunked down behind enemy lines
with no maps, no matches.
The woods deep.
Cheers.

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Former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove received the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Her latest book publications are Sonata Mulattica and The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry.

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