Jessica Goodfellow

Postcards from Insomnia

Sleep is a séance on a raft.
All night the day bucks
beneath your temples.
All day your eyelids
flicker scenes of night.
All night building,
all day tearing town.
All night turning sinistral shells
over and over in your hand.
At daybreak, lobbing them back into the sea.

Alpine-angled, the fox
folds herself into the under-
brush of the tundra. Creature
of intricate origami, hunting
in the saxifrage for small-
boned creatures, she disappears
into the night. The starry sky above
unfolds like a road map
that can never be put back
into the tidy glovebox of day.

A mind is a tumbleweed
blown this way.
And that.

A scar is a souvenir.
The night sky might think
of stars as scars—

where memory burns
and burns.

Lightning marbles the night,
ragged quartz, barbed wire sky,
trisected—one part for God,
one for regret, the last for escape.
Broken mesh sieving dark
from dark, imperfectly,
the way water trickles
from between the fingers
of a cupped hand.

All night rain arpeggios
the tin roof like a xylophone.
The rhythmic trapezes of night
and day swing almost close enough
for the leap into sleep.
Early morning the temple bell
joins the chorus from far away.
Later, three roosters.

Gabriel’s Horn

Night after night I wake with a start.
She is dead again. Our differences hang
in the dark: palpable, insoluble, insolvent.

My grief’s like Gabriel’s Horn, geometric,
a surface of revolution with finite volume
but surface area infinite—you can fill it with paint

but can’t paint it, a professor once explained.
It is not the drowning grief I had expected,
plumbless, but one instead with edges, its skin

in the world endless, touching everything. I wear it
as I go, like my clothes she never approved of,
where everyone can see, crumpling against expectations.

So make it clear and fill it with paint, I’d said
to the professor, pragmatic but missing the point.
Nothing about grief is clear, or can be made so.

It brushes up against everything. Against, against.
Friction. How I used to complain she was all surface
and no depth, stupidly forgetting depthless means

both shallow and unfathomably deep. Once we were
elbow-to-elbow in a museum, gazing at an ancient amulet
fashioned from bronze. I imagined an earnest person

thousands of years ago, painstakingly scoring the metal,
how many hours it must have taken, the solitary effort,
the satisfaction when done. Then suddenly she said,

Imagine that. Once upon a time somebody gave that
to someone.
The paradox of Gabriel’s Horn
can be explained by the method of infinitesimals,

by partitions so small you can never see them.
Also unseen are angels trumpeting in Judgment Day.
Invisible too are the tiny yet infinite judgments

we made against one another. Forgive me.

Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala, and The Insomniac’s Weather Report. She has been a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve. Her work has appeared in Threepenny Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Southern Review, Motionpoems, and Best New Poets, and is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2018. She lives in Japan.