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Kelli Russell Agodon: Three Poems

Reading Poetry to Cure Insomnia | It is Easy to Wake Up in Someone Else's Poem | Limbo

Reading Poetry to Cure Insomnia

Tonight I try to pull sleep
from the crash of a book,

but night swarms thick like bees,
stinging the small white lips

of streetlights. Outside
my window, moonflowers

hang across the broken trellis, night
plants curl with evening

primrose, nocturnal and exposed.
I will be here until morning,

until robins awake handheld
in grass, a hint of daylight emerging

as an early lover entering
this room. I close

the book. The Emily Dickinson
hosta blooms slightly. Its petals

move like a single page,
paper tongues silent to the willow

branches shading it
so it can sleep the rest of the day.

It is Easy to Wake Up in Someone Else's Poem

the way prodigies awake in paintings
of sunflowers and lily ponds.

But we do not wear the skin of geniuses,
sometimes I lose the checkbook for days

or the note with the phone message
I jotted down while eating egg rice,

using head and eye gestures
to tell my toddler not to slide pennies

in the CD player, to take
the Venetian beads off the cat.

These are my daily poems, life falling
around me on scrap paper—my sister cries

because her new English cottage is without
its antique lightning rod, my other sister

gleeful her doublewide came furnished.
God sets us in boats and pushes us onto the lake

of perspective. Itís easy to ignore the narrator
while he rests on shore in a white flannel robe

forgetting we will wake from the page,
that our tuxedos are only black ink, white paper.


The garden needs tending. Buttercups
appear under the Japanese Maple
like new green graves winding through soil.

These are the things we donít talk about—
her christening dress hangs in the closet,
the small pearl buttons remain tight.

Never worn. We are sewn shut.
I donít clean the birdbath anymore.
I see her face

reflected in pockets of water between
the leaves. She is part cloud and sky.
I want to find her,

pull her from the edge of nowhere,
drip rain on her forehead.
Retuck her in her crib.

I want to pack up the christening dress.
The sky is white. The birds donít return.
The box has been empty for weeks.

Poet's Biography:
Kelli Russell Agodon's poems have recently appeared or will soon be appearing in Rattapallax, Parnassus, Seattle Review, River Oak Review, Calyx, Crab Creek Review, DMQ Quarterly, Can We Have Our Ball Back, The Adirondack Review and other publications.

Currently, she is the Poetry Editor for the online literary journal Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism and a Regional Coordinator for the United Poetry Coalition, formerly Poets for Peace. She is a Washington State Arts Commission/Artist Trust GAP recipient from her manuscript Beginning to Speak. You can read more of Kelli's work at

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