The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Gustavo Pérez Firmat

Dirty Old Man, Insomniac


             2 a.m.

Once again he can’t sleep.
He pees, reads, pees again.
Takes a pill, then another.
The humidifier hums.
The heat clicks on and off.
Gets up, explores the house.
Checks for emails. Nothing.
Back in bed, his neck aches.
Checks for fantasies. Nothing
there either, it’s been too long.
His wife snores.

            3 a.m.

Others may enjoy it,
the interlude of quiet
before or after dreaming.
Leave him in bed for longer
than a handful of heartbeats,
he turns into the deer in the headlights,
St. Sebastian tied to the post,
the seasoned pork chop slipping
from the frying pan into the fire.

When the shoe is about to fall,
he is the bug.
When the bomb is about to land,
he is Hiroshima.
When the tsunami is about to strike,
he is the fishing village.
An old man awake is his own worst nightmare.




GUSTAVO PÉREZ FIRMAT, a writer and scholar, is the author of several collections of poetry in Spanish and English, among them Scar Tissue (2005), Bilingual Blues (1995), and Equivocaciones (1989). His other books include a study of Cuban-American culture, Life on the Hyphen (rev. ed. 2012), as well as  the memoirs Next Year in Cuba (1995) and Cincuenta lecciones de exilio y desexilio (rev. ed. 2016). Pérez Firmat is the David Feinson Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.



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