“I Can’t Sleep So I’ll Tell You a Story” by Tom C. Hunley

Tom C. Hunley


Every cricket chirping sounds, to me,
like my son’s garage band must sound
to the neighbor who calls, twice a week,
and threatens to call the cops, but never does.
You can’t call the cops on crickets.
You can’t even call their parents.
I can hear a train in the distance.
In the distance, people are making
even more distance
between themselves and this place.
Years ago, when I was teaching poetry
at a prison, miles away
from the nearest bus stop,
I used to hitchhike right in front of the prison.
I was always surprised when anyone stopped.
I wondered if my thumb screamed
“not the thumb of an escaped convict!”
Once a blonde picked me up
on her way back from visiting her husband.
She was beautiful like a sunset, if a sunset
had been raised in a trailer park.
Her husband had burned down their house
with her in it, her and her mother.
Change of heart, he rushed back in
for her, but left his mother-in-law to the flames.
The blonde shrugged that he still excited her,
said he asked her to wear skirts with no panties
on visits. I don’t know what my face said,
but she flipped her skirt up, just for a second,
said “Now you believe me.” My face
said I was embarrassed, and she laughed.
I lie here thinking of all the places
people are going where I haven’t been,
thinking of the place where that prisoner had been,
a place where I gawked at the doorway,
but didn’t knock, and never mind the moon,
never mind the stars, I lie here
in the noisy darkness, thinking
of all the places it could take a person.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006


Tom C. Hunley: “When I was a teenager, I was captivated by Kevin J. O’Connor’s portrayal of a teenage beat poet in Peggy Sue Got Married. Shortly thereafter, I picked up Allen Ginsberg’s Empty Mirror and read ‘I am flesh and blood, but my mind is the focus of much lightning.’ I felt that way about myself. Every decision I’ve made since then has been impacted by my desire to hang onto that feeling.” (web)

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