Insomnia
Elegy with Mirrors and Dynamite
Scumble

John W. Evans


Insomnia

               Seventeen Months

A woman walking her dog begs no one to notice her.
She doubles the slack leash around her wrist.
Nothing to hold close. No one approaches tonight.
The boy watching from his stoop breathes evenly.
The mechanic shrugs and silences his neon sign.
Even the pharmacist, mid-script, closes shop early.
His underworld cave: terraced with black poppies.

Walking out into the freezing cold to piss.
You must remember this: the loud, idiotic wind.
The ridge. Stillness. Opening each stubborn door.
How life continued, ugly and elegant as campfires.
How strange, to never grieve like that again.
No fires. Nothing to put out.
Is grief the rubbed-out date on an expired coin?
Abundant or willed, it’s worth nothing.

Because it makes her feel safe,
a woman lets her dog sniff every tree and stranger.
The mechanic holds his fingers out to both of them.
Look at the boy. Speak. In clear and memorable phrases.



Elegy with Mirrors and Dynamite

The fat man grief wheels out one last
next-to-last time, extending his farewell tour
another night. Or whiskey. Or wild carrots
bumping the Indiana shrubs. Everywhere,
infected elms. Who scuttles the knotted masts
that can’t make sense of these storms?
What fills the air with unremarkable heat?
Electric lovers topple the weeble-wobble
miracle of their insatiable loneliness.
The charge fires its mechanism.
Unseen: this bliss, this carpeting ash.
Moving paint in shopping carts kids brand the city.



Scumble

               Seven Months

Silent branches,
ash-white—
no moonlight this winter.

Playing board games,
brewing coffee—
outside, too much winter.

Black tree, green apple—
new tattoo,
same old winter.

Autumn, then winter—
empty branches,
empty train tracks.

Chrysalis of wildflowers
innumerable
in the winter soil.


John W. Evans is the Jones Lecturer in Poetry at Stanford University, where he was previously a Wallace Stegner Fellow. His poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, The Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Poetry Daily. His chapbook, Zugzwang, was published in November 2009 by RockSaw Press. He serves as Executive Director of the Katie Memorial Foundation (KMF), a nonprofit organization that promotes grassroots international public health work in the developing world.



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.