Return to Insomnia Home Page



The following are selections from Books One & Two, 1987-1994
By
Kenneth Rumsey

( All poems are under copyright and cannot be re-produced without written consent )




Down
Night falls... a smooth, dark fabric across my face.
My mood has changed a hundred times this night with each new direction of the evening wind.
Trees, tall and smooth, line the dim lane, standing like soldiers, grim and silent.
Perched alone on the roof, my arms chill and I pull this blanket tighter against me.
Distant hounds cast eerie cries into the midnight.
They taunt me as I shrug away the blanket to watch it fall almost endlessly to the far below.
I swallow hard, a cold rock in my throat.
Closing my eyes... stretching to stand... and jump.

Afraid to Sleep
Some day we will all be dead in an air filled with whispered conversations...
with the kind of strangeness that startles idle minds.
You know, you've plagued my memory for a long long time.
Tomorrow is grey and wet with rain, a cool breeze raising bumps across my body.
Yes, we will have to die quickly and be buried here in this columnal house with great windows.
We assign ourselves to the horrors of our teachers, haunted by their nightmares
and scratched deeply with a thistle wind.
I sometimes find it strange that we wrap ourselves in the skin of our ancestors...
but ours is too soft and vulnerable.
 

After the Fall
All of your favorite excuses are standing like a row of wooden ghosts, tasting my words,
swallowing their bitterness like an old tea.
I wanted to hold you to my tired body in the aftermath, but my arms were emptied.
I tried then to leave your face and your fingers behind me... but they touch me in my wide awake.
Your scent drapes itself across me like a cool sheet on a worn and dusty chair... forgotten in
someone's attic.
Autumn is forever with me now...
full of color, yet resolved to its eventual end, like you and me.
I'll romance the rested seasons and the earth beneath them where I see your face
and your fingers in my narrowing awake.
All of your favorite excuses begin to fade into the thin walls behind them...
only a small procession of shadows before passing like ghosts.

Home
Well now, here you are old boy.
And how in hell have you been?
Have a few good memories... on the house.
When you've grown tired, just let them release you again
and give me your fear to put away.
Let my pride in you glow against your face.
Take care, my friend, it's free.

Slipping Out
You were born of fear... of the violent uprising beneath your flesh.
It wets your eyes with the sea.
It pushes at you with its spindle fingers and grasps at your bitter soul.
There were a couple of yesterdays here and there that you placed on the hearth.
They made you remember as they incensed the air around you.
You are alone, wrapped in the cry of crickets.
Sleep into tomorrow as you drip like an icicle into the wooded floor...
cold, sharp and disappearing...
leaving a cool, dark stain, if only for a moment.

Goodbye to the Dance
These new ones...
this new breed of frantic romantics are so boring.
I could almost swear I've been here once or twice before.
I should just grow wings... forget the club... the dance.
You know, the legends never wanted to be me either.
It's far too erratic to be okay so... then what?
You play the games. You play it safe.
You sigh with frustration... then with relief.
The change disturbs me. You're everybody's friend.
Age, I suppose, is now the new religion.
Where are you?
You're going nowhere,
like your oh-so-explicit clothes strewn on the floor
on those occasions when it all came together...
or perhaps broke down, including you.
See boy see girl see boy.
The exhibition is over.
Pick up your clothes and go home.

Yesterday's Stranger
You're my sickness. You're my stranger, inhabiting my mind...
painting green upon the stones that have collected at my feet.
I'm nervous before you.
This love is sweet, like the breath of angels.
It doesn't belong to me.
It's free and swimming.
It enters us for a moment to make us aware of ourselves.
It touches us from the inside out.
My stomach trembles and my throat closes.
Then, in a rush, it sets me free.
Free and swimming.
For a moment, aware of myself... aware of you.

The Taking of You
It was the strangest of days.
Your words and thoughts were already caught in your throat.
Soon they were cracked wide open like the hard tree roots under our heels.
Of course, all of this was no matter
to me on a day as cold as it was, painted with a silver blue chill.
We sat in the reading room, reclined against opposite walls
and staring through the paper thin dawn at our brand new faces.
Yours was soft and waxen, with darting brazen eyes;
framed by a twisted and golden bundle of hair
that lapped against your porcelain neck.
I wore my favorite expression...
the one that squeezes my words into your head like ripe, rich food.
I tossed all of your silly puppets and dolls aside
as I tugged sharply at your fevered soul,
making you forget everything I couldn't use.
By the time the dew disappeared,
I held your trembling body in my arms and smiled into you.

Desperation
We stand closed within this wrap-about,
so much more alone than we'd ever imagined we would be
and there is a suffocating stillness about the world.
Where do you get that sweet stuff?
Just look at all of the sick faces arranged here...
the faces of tired men in dirty factories.
It flows into our old eyes.
Snow falls in lazy drifts against this... our night.
Spring is nothing but a faint green haze and all of its voices are yet unmade.
The sleepers chuckle fiendishly under their fat breath,
while those in waking groan in their fevered pain.
I transcend the uppermost and back under with my head full of fossils
from a hundred years standing.
You know, we'll never touch again... not in this city rich with small splendors;
This city... not my own... and never will be.
The thought of you still scares me, but only when I care.

Taste of Youth
Our fears are tightly wrapped and glowing figures,
laying in the perfumed dusts of death.
They are washed in a sunken brook where a hundred thoughts are sprung;
their departure marked with that sweet strangeness.
Your words were all untied in a wind that tasted like orange blossoms,
dawn's wet sleeping against our nakedness.
You've always held the morning in your hands, drinking from my boyish dreams.
Our small instance is undeniably beautiful,
distinct and full of breath, our bodies woven and soft.
We find ourselves beyond the touch of the murmurs.
Now the innocence curls itself around me in a loose wreath
and settles neatly within the walls of my body to hold me as I sleep.

The Learning
Clancy, my vapour jesus and cradler of tears...
you've traveled so far with me, living in the hills and remaining the quiet one for now.
When you first spoke, you removed me from my flesh and
discarded it against the window from which you came.
You wet my mind with song... the anointment of sacred prose from the fathers...
wise old men with the solace of solitude;
the passion of a dying place that chose to re-invent itself and
reaches to its sons to bring them home.
Clancy, my friend... yours is the truest of loves.

Ugly
It's the hardest thing to give your beliefs away;
to rip them from beneath your facade.
In the tiny crack of a stranger's smile... you fell.
Its span let you pass while it held me at my waist to only writhe against it.
What brought us here to this ugly season of poisoned words and frigid abandon?
You gave yourself away like the spare change you toss to the bums.
You made yourself a void, begging to be filled by anything...
anything that wasn't me.
Familiar was ugly. It reeked with the stench of common yesterdays.
It was weak and undesirable.
I'd never have believed you'd be one of the painful pages.
What beast lurked within you, pressing to get out?
Were his kisses so sweet; his touch so warm?
Did your body scream at you to feel him in your wetness?
What made you hate what we had become?
I'll never know.
My tears are ugly.
They reek with the stench of common yesterdays.
They are weak and undesirable.

Ancient Wind
I've seen you before... some time ago.
I met you on the road with your personal devil.
His smile was wide and his eyes burned with the blood of angels.
You were nude and afflicted with a walking sickness
that exposed the betrayal of your soul.
He carried a twisted ebony cane that thundered when it struck the earth.
You filled my head with sex like a flight of birds aloft a powerful, sorrowful wind.
The flashbulb images strobed my head with abandon.
I could only stand as a slender sapling
as I smelled the tissue draping my bones beginning to smolder... to cook.
Helplessness consumed me, a limb at a time until my twisted wire frame
turned and fell to the loose earth.
You were never mine again.
Train
How am I supposed to count my footfalls beneath this mayhem net?
My head is placed against the rails,
my thoughts coming and going with an awkward, loving kind of curiosity.
I grappled at the empty air above me for what was left of my courage,
but it had simply "skipped out", like a taunting child.
Please remain here with my desperation... my tears carving these lines into my face.
I damn you with all that I hold within me,
my face a wretched sight... yours a running watercolor.
Where did the stinging lullaby come from with it's tiny, sickening voices
and its tightly held terrors?
I find myself at a loss for breath.
I lose myself with it
I lift my head from the rails... but this time too slow.
It hits me, hard and furious into my startled face.

The Long Walk
Enter this garden at dusk
with your stones clenched tightly in your fist,
cutting their chiseled contours into your folded flesh.
Hold your breath. Put it away.
Stand as a crucifix as I remove our masks.
Yours is a raven of deep feathered blue with narrow slits for eyes
and a zig-zag stripe of coal beneath your beak.
Mine is a wolf, black and ragged with the eyes of a tortured prophet
and tired soldier set above a taut and trembling jaw
I take your opened hand and lead you to the orchard,
past statues of emptied days and silenced remembrance.
You drop your stones with slow deliberation.
We walk without words as you mark our path and the day surrenders to us.
It took you so very long to find this garden.
How long will you stay?

On Meeting Anna
Yes, I do recall that face...
the way she smiled with an uncanny precision
and laughed with each glance of her eyes to mine.
She praised me as the loud and rebellious one, yet remaining so calm and cool shy.
I knew she was paper.
I knew she could burn.
I wash the memory clean and put it away.
All of the days that followed were filled with the answers
I had looked for during our fragile union.
I need now only to remember the questions.
Would they be asked again?
Is she in touch with any of it
or are they all tucked away... old snapshots in a wearing-down shoe box.
I knew she was paper.

Chance Meeting
The glass of this old blue bottle has grown cloudy
and my shoes fit loosely as they've grown worn with travel.
This pen, held loosely in my hands threatens to fall to the floor
in a pool of rich, dark wine.
Cats are fighting noisily on the porch outside and under the stale moonlight.
At a time like this I think of when the days were longer; the nights with no end.
I'll make it through yet another year if I can remove myself from this place.
I'll work it out... take all of this in deep.
Could you kiss me?
Could you leave me silly blind?
Just touch me, barely, still full of fear.
Jump for misery so fine.
Let me know if you can give up your time for all of this.
Can you give it up for me?

The Reflected Voice
As we lay sleeping by the pond beside our town library,
you gave me no chance to disappear.
I was livid with wine and rage at the sublime party we'd attended this night.
You were dressed as a lady of clouds and honeydew haze.
You dropped your glass as my eyes pressed into your betraying face.
The facade was opened wide and you knew this.
You knew I was witness to the kiss he stole from you as you smiled on
like a young, childish girl.
As I hung our coats in the sitting room.
As I fetched the cocktails.
As I stood speaking with the other guests.
I bound it all away into my counting house.
I said nothing as you pretended...
until you saw it in my face.
The disappointment.
The shame.
The hurting.
The love leaving me in a slow and quiet stream.
You tried to dam the flow.
You tried to wait for your evil to leave me.
Sweetheart, it has... with you.

WhittingComb
We used to talk of Old Mr. Whittingcomb
and how he only lived in black and white.
I don't think he'd ever been in love.
I don't think he'd ever been at all.
His home was musty and sickly, his sweaters filled with holes
and gray with soil.
We used to watch him from the building corners,
walking about the town and talking to himself...
Sometimes agitated.
Sometimes morose.
The neighborhood dogs made cruel sport of him,
but he never seemed to know they were there...
barking beside him without worry of curse or kick.
One day he fell into the river from the bridge on Beecher Street.
No one cared.
No one cried.
They simply buried Old Mr. Whittingcomb.
Strange though... all of the dogs had disappeared.