"American Night, American Morning" by Ariel Francisco

Fuck a dollar and a dream.

        —Biggie Smalls


When I can’t sleep I go

up to the rooftop

of my apartment building


and watch the man who sleeps

on the bus stop bench

across the street, brown by birth


or sun.  I want to ask him 

How do you do it?

From here I can see a lottery


jackpot billboard off the highway

mid-update, so that it currently reads



I was born in the city

that never sleeps so perhaps

insomnia is my birthright.


Even in Miami, the New York 

air must have stuck to the inside 

of my lungs like cigarette tar,


directing my luck towards

noise and lights. Sometimes 

it’s the cops who always


pull people over in front

of my apartment at every hour

with their howling sirens,


sometimes it’s the jet planes

across the street, rattling 

my windows with takeoff,


their over-caffeinated pilots

dreaming of sleep too.

Sometimes it’s the stack


of mail on my nightstand

from the doctor’s office,

credit card companies, Sallie 


Mae, the IRS, all unopened,

collecting dust instead

of collecting from me.  


The things that weigh me down

must have pressed me into sleep

right on the rooftop because I wake


to sparrows hopping about

my head, the highway singing

its blues of passing traffic.


The sun hangs in the sky

out of reach, revealing

the unfamiliar faces


at the bus stop, how much

the lottery is now, how late

I am for work.

Ariel Francisco is a Dominican-Guatemalan-American poet born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in Florida. He is currently completing his MFA at Florida International University where he is also the assistant editor of Gulf Stream Literary Magazine. His poems have appeared in The Boiler Journal, Portland Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Washington Square, and elsewhere.

Posted on May 22, 2016 .