God’s Insomniacs

by Edward Hirsch

Those sleepless blurry-eyed mystics—
Cioran called them “God’s Insomniacs”—
Mortified themselves
In the arid and obscure night.

They were spirituels, contemplatifs,
Voluptuous sufferers
Who could scarcely see the stars
Through the bitter light of their tears.

One of the saints never slept
More than two hours per night.
She stood up to pray
And nailed her hair to the wall.

One of the saints dipped her forehead
Into a candle, another tasted the flame.
She said it would start raining roses
After her death, though it never did.

Their austerities enthralled you,
One of the lonely agnostics
Lying awake at night and brooding
About the hole in your chest.

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