Better Demons (The Strands of Hair)


The strands of hair are a blanket for my insomnia
wrapped around me like hours slipping away
while I count minutes and calculate the moment when I will have less to sleep
than the amount I’ve already spent counting the minutes.
Years of youth are gone and I’ve come to realize, now, that
all that time I waited for sleep I was really dreaming
of a girl’s face
and her strands of hair on a pillow I no longer need
now that I no longer sleep.

They warned us about drugs and unsafe sex
and the dangers of drinking and driving and due process
and they say that our generation will make all the same mistakes
as our parents and our grandparents and Hitler’s parents
and they finally grow fed up and wave their hands
and say, “I guess you’ll learn the hard way,” and leave us to our doom.
But, how come, with all their wisdom
they never warned us about the strands of hair
a girl will leave on your pillow
and her lingering smell?

It is only through the better demons of my nature
that I manage to come to terms with indefinite endings
by making deals with the Devil for eternal youth:
an unfailing source of energy to sustain me in the dark
and a relative peace of mind for when the bombs drop
and I emerge from my seclusion to find I am the last man alive
and even if I yell till my voice is hoarse, no one will hear me.
Because the only things that will remain after the apocalypse
are the cockroaches whose pattering feet have been keeping me awake
and the strands of hair on pillows
where girls once dreamt.

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