THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
As if in a cold war spy flick, it is a foggy night.
You pull up to the striped and lowered roadblock
and the checkpoint guard, fat in his overcoat,
breathes gin down your neck as he thumbs through your passport.
He stamps it with the black and oily barn-owl crest.
You know what’s through that mountain pass, you’ve been before.
Insomnia speaks a harsh and stuttered language–
in it all your answers sound like questions–
and on her cobbled capital streets all friends are strangers.
You know what you’ll find among the natives:
their milk is black, storms rage in their living-rooms,
bones grow in the tongues of the old, who cannot speak.
The sun burns out his days in exile, pacing a poor and sweaty chamber,
and you, the black-gloved master spy, you light another cigarette.
The guard has waved you through. Your headlights glare like lidless eyes.
—from Rattle #21, Summer 2004