Some scientists say it’s genetic,
circadian rhythms passed down like brown
eyes or freckles.
My grandmother says she stays up late
because at seventy-five, there’s no time
to waste on dreams.
Most nights she sits in the living room, listens
to the house settling, stares at old photos
of my grandfather.
My father says his father’s heart surrendered
to her Sunday dinners and tyranny;
not one meal was missed.
Like his mother, my father does not sleep.
He thinks about the fires he fought at work
and at home.
He says that we’re alike, “we love too deeply,”
but some fires have to burn themselves out,
so he stays away.
And I lay night after night, head hard against
the pillow listening to the ceiling fan hum
and strum the air,
thinking of my grandmother’s garden and how
I played there while I waited for my father,
and needing the massive hands of sleep to take me.
We all hear the night’s song, its cadences…
in minor key.