Sleepless in Indiana, I Contemplate the Age-Old Arts

Dog that won’t stop barking and all I can think:
I don’t know anything about stars—		

not what they’re called or how they form, but how

we turn stars into stickers to surprise
our children and assure them You are better
than normal children. 				

On boat decks, sailors cry out Orion!
			and they see a man,
but they’ve only drawn stick-figure self-portraits
of fire and longing. 

		      I tried to sketch
my face one night with stronger brow lines,
higher cheekbones, but it was all nose, scaly 
water moccasin: a viper me. 

I paid someone who drew me in 
red with big hair, gaunter—
the way he drew me made me

see how lonely he thought I was. I rolled
that portrait with wax paper and a rubber band,

		look at it during the Lenten season—

That same spring or summer on the back of a boat, I caught a sunfish, baited him
with gum. I didn’t like unhooking him—

tore his lip. Astrologists 
shape stars into fish, take cracks at
decoding futures. Palm-reading hocus-pocus: 

on my hand—which is starboard, 
                 port, and which is solar flare?

I could use that hand to throw a tomahawk
from this bed and hit neither boat nor star 

from way down here, 
so far from water.

Copyright © 2015 Lindsey D. Alexander. This poem originally appeared in Devil’s Lake, Fall 2015. Used with permission of the author.