3am Poetry: Billy Collins’s “Insomnia”

InsomniaWell crap. It’s 3:00 am, and I’m wide awake. (No, not lonely, although the 90s child in me did just geek out a bit). Tonight it’s money issues. I am so tired of nearly being in the red every month. I need to finish this damned dissertation and get some more teaching. And seriously, childcare….if my child weren’t so freaking amazing, I wouldn’t consent to spending as much as my mortgage every month on you. But she is, so I do.

Looks like I need another dose of that sense of perspective I recently wrote about. And some poetry. That always helps.

On that note, here’s a favorite poem of mine, which perfectly and viscerally captures what’s going on in my brain right now.

By Billy Collins

Even though the house is deeply silent
and the room, with no moon,
is perfectly dark,
even though the body is a sack of exhaustion
inert on the bed,

someone inside me will not
get off his tricycle,
will not stop tracing the same tight circle
on the same green threadbare carpet.

It makes no difference whether I lie
staring at the ceiling
or pace the living-room floor,
he keeps on making his furious rounds,
little pedaler in his frenzy,
my own worst enemy, my oldest friend.

What is there to do but close my eyes
and watch him circling the night,
schoolboy in an ill-fitting jacket,
leaning forward, his cap on backwards,
wringing the handlebars,
maintaining a certain speed?

Does anything exist at this hour
in this nest of dark rooms
but the spectacle of him
and the hope that before dawn
I can lift out some curious detail
that will carry me off to sleep—
the watch that encircles his pale wrist,
the expandable band,
the tiny hands that keep pointing this way and that.

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