A four sonnet sequence that pulses with Hacker's witty rhyming and half-rhyming, taking place late at night with the threat of a migraine, the repetitive frustrations of insomnia and memories of the "lie" that ended a relationship. The warning of wildness and danger ("A lie hung framed in the doorway, growing wild") running through the poem is held in tentative check by the sonnet form and the repetition of the last line of the previous sonnet as the first line of the next (a technique neatly described in the poem itself: "The double doors close back upon themselves. / The double doors close back upon themselves.")


This is a tense sonnet sequence that moves from the stumbling rousal of an insomniac with the stirrings of a headache and the threat of a migraine through the wrenching end of a relationship. Time and space are warped by pain; not just the present, but the past is also re-imagined in the context of pain, just as the "lie" that ended a relationship is remembered not just as the words, but as the events, the person herself, permeating the whole relationship.

Although this poem could stand as an effective description of a migraine, it is also a powerful evocation of the discomfiting ruminations of insomnia and the misery of a relationship that is over: physical pain or mental suffering, not quite distinguishable here, poison everything. The poem moves between these realms of the physical and imaginary, between past and present, between interior and exterior spaces, ending with the onset of the headache, and a repetition of the first line of the poem itself.

Those who like poetry about animals should also enjoy the evocations of a dog that is not there "to lay his jowls across bent knees and drool / and smile the black-gummed smile he shares with wolves."


Originally appeared in The Paris Review, Issue 163, Fall 2002

Primary Source

Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York