sometimes i have to drug myself to sleep.
don’t worry — nothing fancy
i get tanked off one wine cooler nowadays;
the last time i went out, i had one grenadine and vodka—
shut up, it sounded classy
and i woke up with a hangover.
i’m twenty-seven. of course, i’ve never
had a tolerance for alcohol before,
but now it seems like if i wanted to start
drinking, i would definitely die within three
sometimes i have to drug myself to sleep,
because i need to get away from the monsters.
“monsters aren’t real,” i tell my daughter, while the
oil-soaked cloud that drifts behind the back of
my head sloshes something about how
killing myself would be easier on a night i was
sometimes i have to drug myself to sleep after i say
“dreams are just what’s in your head”
to my daughter, while my own dreamscape
crackles with tar and gritty static
from televisions projecting back at me
everything i remember from the moment
i ceased to be a child.
i never wanted to lie,
not to my children.
but baby, listen;
sometimes mommy has to lie because
memories come knocking on your skull
at three forty seven in the morning,
and rattle your teeth until you have
to be up and up and up, fuck, you
have to pull yourself out of the nightmare and
gasp for breath, and swear, and feel the frustrated,
exhausted tears stinging your eyes,
grief for another wasted night,
and throw what you’d call a tantrum over the fact
you haven’t slept in weeks
(it isn’t a tantrum, and you’re right. it’s really fucking unfair)
i always felt that the years of exhaustion,
after everything had ended, have always been
the most enduring burden i’ve ever dragged
the exhaustion — of learning how to love,
how to feel whole, but how to disengage
when love is far too much for you to hold.
how many people have you hurt
because you couldn’t just hold on a little longer?
add the weight of guilt to your bag;
you’ll go back over high school and middle school partners,
wondering how you fucked them up,
because there wasn’t any way you didn’t.
you’re a monster, you hiss at yourself.
the exhaustion — of finding ways to exhaust yourself
until all you can do is work and stumble home
and pull off your clothes,
sleep, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat,
until you can’t think anymore;
until that part of you is behind a grimy panel,
and you think you’ve short-circuited the connection.
wrong. there’s a panel,
but everything is still behind it.
the exhaustion — of having to stuff yourself
into a halfway functional meat suit
and go out into the world.
eventually you stop flailing around
and learn how to talk, and walk, and laugh, and act,
till you’re one among everyone else, you’re tough, recovered,
i don’t have triggers, i’m fine, i feel a lot better
until you’re so melted into that suit you should have never put on
that you begin to make capital M mistakes, thinking
you’re normal enough to allow yourself the luxury
of doing before thinking.
brains with snapped wires are brains that never rest;
the decades of lingering exhaustion
i know i’ve got ahead make me taste bile.
lay my bones in the valley where i was born
for the long sleep.
i am so tired and i am ready
for the robbed years of peaceful slumber to be my reward
for continuing until my end.
Danielle is a pining Pacific Northwesterner who currently lives, writes, and raises two children in the Midwest. She is a founding member of the Indianapolis Poetry Orgy, a small collective focusing on the spoken word of local writers. Her hobbies include caffeine, insomnia, memes, and loudly declaring that Pluto is indeed a planet. Take that, NASA.