three-and-four a.m.

Three-and-four a.m.
hopeless hours
too late for sleep, too early to wake
God, is there anything worse?
Maybe four-thirty-a.m.
Or right before the sun comes up
when the sky gets that rosy hue that
always makes me feel nauseous.

Jaundiced clouds, sick with leprosy,
they start to unravel as soon as the sun bursts through
Diseased flesh decomposing
as the world begins to stir.
If you’re awake at three-or-four-or-four-and-thirty
you’re already outside
You day-slash-night-dream about
orange juice and toast
rushing out the door
sitting in traffic to get to your desk justintime
And all the mundane little
make-you-want-to-blow-your-brains-out details
– business suits and meetings, wpm, irs, iras –
seem so appealing.

This hour
these hours
I always feel empty
literally
something about this time of morning makes my stomach hurt
I’m probably hungry
but eating would make it worse
I’ve been through this hour enough times to know.
Nothing good comes of these hours –
Worry, fear, paranoia, and you forget all the little sweet things
that make you so happy at three-and-four p.m.

I know now,
a malicious witch hovered over my cradle at birth,
her breath, sickly sweet,
carrying her disease,
wrapped around my tiny frame.
– “There is nothing you can do,
I have claimed you as my own,
my three-and-four a.m. child”

How many three-and-four-a.m.s have I spent on a weary laptop
reading, talking, finding other
three-and-four-a.m. children
But at this hour
you are always only alone,
a stale donut from yesterday’s a.m.
with too-pink frosting and pale characatures of sprinkles.

Yes, three-and-four-and-four-thirty-and-five a.m. –
the cocaine hour.
No matter how many years pass,
it’s still the cocaine hour,
I am still the empty vessel at the black desk.
The paint was soft, like wax,
sometimes it came off
and the soft white powder was mixed with soft black paint.
As if that were the greatest of my worries.
Parcelling out my time in lines and bumps,
“Only this much this time, then none for an hour –
or forty-five minutes or thirty-five if I get
a lot of work done
between then and now”

Then it was easy to explain the nausea
the emptiness of three-and-four-a.m.
The cloudy thoughts.

Now, though, no reason,
only my witch’s curse,
my hideous benefactor.
In whose dank image was I formed, putrid Mother?
What demon have you set on my shoulder to whip and torment me?
Your foul breath lingers still in my nostrils
and I am always nauseous
at three-and-four-and-four-thirty-and-five a.m.

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