by Oliver de la Paz

Because the night is a scattering of sounds—blunt
branches hurtling to the ground, a nest stir, a sigh
from someone beside me. Because I am awake
and know that I am not on fire. I am fine. It’s August.

The scar on my neck, clarity—two curtains sewn.
A little door locked from the inside.

Nothing wants anything tonight. There are only stars
and the usual animals. Only the fallen apple’s wine-red crush.

Rabbits hurtle through the dark. Little missiles.
Little fur blossoms hiding from owls. Nothing wants
to be in this galaxy anymore. Everything wants the afterlife.

Dear afterlife, my body is lopped off. My hands
are in the carport. My legs, in the river. My head, of course,
in the tree awaiting sunrise. It dreams it is the owl,
a dark-winged habit. Then, a rabbit’s dash
to the apple, shining like nebulae. Then the owl
scissoring the air. The heart pumps its box of inks.

The river’s auscultations keep pace
with my lungs. Blame the ear for its attention. Blame
the body for not wanting to let go, but once a thing moves
it can’t help it. There is only instinct, that living “yes.”

(“Insomnia as Transfiguration” was originally published in diode, and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three collections of poetry, Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby (SIU Press 2001, 2007), and Requiem for the Orchard (U. of Akron Press 2010), winner of the Akron Prize for poetry chosen by Martìn Espada. He co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American Poetry. A recipient of a NYFA Fellowship Award and a GAP Grant from Artist Trust, his work has appeared in journals like The Southern Review Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Tin House, Chattahoochee Review, and in anthologies such as Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. He teaches at Western Washington University.

Editor’s Note: “Because I am awake / and know that I am not on fire. I am fine. It’s August.” How could you not be blown away by a moment like that? Today’s poem is spotted with such moments, appearing between flashes of abstract images and ideas. “Nothing wants anything tonight… Nothing wants / to be in this galaxy anymore.” The idea of nothing being an entity of sorts, something capable of desire, is one such abstract idea, ever successful in its ability to get the reader’s mind to think outside the box.

Want to read more by and about Oliver de la Paz?
From the Fishouse
Guernica Mag
The Rumpus


  1. One of my favorite things about this poem is all the subtle little internal rhymes: sounds, ground; sigh, fire, fine; scar, stars; habit, rabbit’s. They are effortless but give a rhythm and unity that great poetry should have. I also like the clarity and simplicity of the language as weighed against the profundity of the ideas.


  2. Raul – I completely agree with the rhymes. They were something I was drawn to and impressed with in the poem, while being understated and subtle. I usually tend away from rhyme, but here I think it’s working effortlessly. You *almost* don’t notice them, which means they’re working.

    Sarah – Agreed! A hymn is a lovely word for it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s