the poem you asked for

(image courtes Cari Ann Wayman)

I did not sleep well last night.  I rolled and rolled until I was dizzy and motion sick.  I sometimes have bad thoughts in the middle of the night (visions of bleeding children, giant earthquakes, cancer diagnoses, and remembering every stupid thing I’ve ever done or said) so, for distraction, I composed a poem in my mind, a poem about my favorite bad word.  It is probably not appropriate for this blog but it reminded me of this poem by Larry Levis called The Poem You Asked For:

My poem would eat nothing.
I tried giving it water
but it said no,

worrying me.
Day after day,
I held it up to the llight,

turning it over,
but it only pressed its lips
more tightly together.

It grew sullen, like a toad
through with being teased.
I offered it money,

my clothes, my car with a full tank.
But the poem stared at the floor.
Finally I cupped it in

my hands, and carried it gently
out into the soft air, into the
evening traffic, wondering how

to end things between us.
For now it had begun breathing,
putting on more and

more hard rings of flesh.
And the poem demanded the food,
it drank up all the water,

beat me and took my money,
tore the faded clothes
off my back,

said Shit,
and walked slowly away,
slicking its hair down.

Said it was going
over to your place.


–by Larry Levis


What do you do when you can’t sleep? 

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. What a great poem.
    When I can’t sleep in the middle of the night it’s because I’ve been thinking about writing right before bed. Given the silence of a dark room, my brain just scrambles itself with ideas. If it’s bad, I wake up and read. If it’s worse, I wake up and write. I feel like I’m giving in to the bully though.

  2. it made me smile … so a good one

  3. That poem felt like my writing process, except it would be about my novelette. (Is that a word?) I’ll look it up later. This week, I got a little idea for 100 words then 200, then more that I’d feel guilty to put over there when I owe The Big Words.

    When I can’t sleep, I bounce between thinking the worst, crying, and watching tv. I always pray for something good to watch to keep me from doing the other two. I don’t write because the not-sleeping hurts.

    • Every time I start reading your novelette, I push the wrong button and somehow can’t find the next section. I will go back now and try to figure out what I”m doing wrong (because it’s so good! I really want to read it!!!)

      • Thanks, Anna. I wish I could figure out if the problem is on my end. I tried the home page and scrolling down, then I looked under fiction. The installments came up in order (reverse order, of course) so I’m not sure what’s going on. If this keeps happening, maybe you could shoot me an email about it. I’m wondering if it’s happening to other people, too.

  4. Brilliant. Really, that is just. so. good.

    If I can’t sleep? I scrawl ideas and drawings in a little notebook. And drink hot milk with vanilla (thanks to my grandmother).

  5. Love this, Anna! Thank you for sharing your insides and this poem.

  6. gailytr

    oh, i love this. it surprised me all along the way. and then i got to laugh.
    when i can’t sleep i kick myself with nightmares of failure and wrong doing.

  7. You know what? You’re damn good. Bravo.

  8. Anna Fonte, I LOVE your latest poem. You have such a fine ear for poetry. Whenever I read one of your poems, I get really grabby. I just want more and more and more. I want a full-length book of your poems. There. I said it.

    Not that I don’t love your prose— one hand shakes the other in your writing, if you know what I mean.

    Gorgeous poem. I’m going to have to read this about six more times this week, I think. WOW.

    • Gaah! This poem is by Larry Levis! Arg. My poem was not printable, alas. It is a fabulous poem. I wish I had written it!

      • Courtenay Bluebird

        D’OH! Sometimes I wonder about my brain! Sorry about that!

        You have great TASTE in poetry, and I STILL THINK that there’s a whole BOOK of fantastic poetry in you. Not a chapbook. A full book! A long enough page-length to win one of the big awards.

  9. I try counting backwards, meditative breathing, and things to keep my mind from racing when I’m struggling to sleep. Neither works, so I end up just waking back up and hoping that I’ll fall asleep from getting bored doing something.

  10. Raina

    I think up stories…. 🙂

  11. Love this Anna. Poem personification makes such good sense.

  12. I want to read your unprintable poem about your favourite bad word. If it is not appropriate for your blog you can leave it on the About page of my blog – no-one goes there pretty much but me!…

  13. I miss Larry Levis. His poems were some of the first that I felt were accessible.

  14. i second others who’ve asked for yours

    • Like I just told Sam up there, it’s so bad it makes me blush. Maybe some day I’ll work up the nerve.

      • Ha but you didn’t say that up there! Oh well if you are finding it bad I shan’t press you further…

        • I mean bad like naughty, not bad like stinky, although it might be that, too. (Bad is a bad word– it’s not very precise.) How about if you guys write about your favorite bad words first? You first, then, maybe….

          • Oh okay now I’m intrigued to read it again. It is just the one I suppose? As you could start another blog and publish all your filthy under another assuming identity…

            Have you read or even better heard the volley of invective that is Evidently Chickentown by John Cooper Clarke?

            But I am thinking you mean naughty as in early Prince-naughty?

            • I hope this works – re Evidently Chickentown I don’t mean the relatively clean bloody version on ‘Snap, Crackle & Bop’ but the the f’ing one – and spotted this version by Christopher Eccleston on You Tube from a 2001 Danny Boyle film Strumpet.

              • girl in the hat

                Now there’s a guy who swears with feeling. What a great poem! And the barking at the end! Why in the world did they take his microphone? I guess he didn’t need it. Thanks for sharing this, Sam– I hope to visit Chickentown someday to see what all the hoopla is about.

  15. When sleep doesn’t come, I take my blanket outside and lay where there’s at least a view of something beyond my imagination, and stare at the stars until my eyes are finally bored for good and begin closing themselves.

    That, or I’ll take sleeping pills and then write various free-form nonsense. Which typically provides quite the vivifying adventure for the subsequent sleepless night. Reading those medicated brainwaves, that is. On that note, I’m sure this comment will seem different to me tomorrow than I had originally intended it. But either way, I enjoyed the poem. And nice to meet you. I like how your brain works.

  16. Great poem, about a poem-as-sullen-abusive-cheater, love it. Never heard of this author, but I don’t follow poetry much, though it sure is fun sometimes. Can’t agree strongly enough with those who would want to hear your foul-mouthed poetry. Effing-A.

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