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Callaloo 24.1 (2001) 166-167

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Insomnia with Fm Radio and Confederate Flag, 1974

Lisa Russ Spaar

Beside her, a boy she hardly knows
is further simplified by sleep's drawl
and this iconic room: dormered
portion of an erstwhile mansion
converted to a dorm for fraternal
brothers--walls draped with Indian
bedspreads, a pissy pyramid of beer cans
balanced in the corner, the spool table
lit by a stereo's eerie green strobe
and presided over by the regnant
smokestack of an acrylic bong.
What stalls her? The malingering tide
of drugs in her naked body, the prospect
of a raggety walk home through dark,
cup-strewn yards--or this music--
the deejay on the college's late night
radio program playing all of Wayne
Shorter's Speak No Evil to no one
she has ever known, its motions haunted
and fugitive and disturbing as history?
In poetry class, this sleeping boy
had written of "the longed-for arms
of the Beloved"--hard to believe,
watching him lost in the amnesia
of drunken dreaming--
though she's here, too, committed
to limbo, while the drummer
and the bassist work hell's border
through the remnant night,
the music a complicated forest
where any path to freedom is marked
by prison bars of blues, and by stars
you've got to inhabit the deepest dark
to see--. Perhaps she dozes [End Page 166]
toward morning, then wakes to witness
the new day's silver limn the bruised
borders of the confederate flag
tacked up in the room's one window--
that "stainless banner" he'd toasted
last night before passing out and into her.
And as she shifts, remembering her empty
clothes, she notes there's been a program change:
rock's back on, and Jimi--dead four years--
begins looping the electric battlements
of the watch-tower--no truce, no surrender--
a truth in his playing that even the unearned
nostalgia of her generation can't damage.

Lisa Russ Spaar, author of the poetry collection Glass Town, teaches creative writing at the University of Virginia, where she administers the MFA Program in Creative Writing. Editor of Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems, she has also published poems in such periodicals as Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Virginia Quarterly Review and Poetry, and, for her poetry, has received awards from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. She has lived in the South since 1974.



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