Sleeper Cell

This entry is part 29 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Let yourself in—
use any key that fits.
Be kind to the parrot in the mirror
who doesn’t know what he’s saying,
there in that cage that looks
so much like your face.
No one is on this, not even you.
Call the numbers you find
on certain benches in the park
& leave messages consisting of
precisely timed moments of silence.
Words can’t be trusted.
Be sure to forget your dreams
immediately upon waking
& remove all traces of any nocturnal emissions.
If sleep apnea develops,
treat with a didgeridoo
to reboot your breathing:
go deeper.
Let yourself down
with knotted bedsheets, gingerly,
through what used to pass for moonlight
in the age of aluminum.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Love these lines best, Dave:

    “Let yourself down
    with knotted bedsheets, gingerly,
    through what used to pass for moonlight
    in the age of aluminum.”


    1. Thanks. Sometimes it’s fun to go weird at the end! Inspiration came from one of my favorite objects, an aluminum countertop coffee tin from the 1950s.


  2. I’m impressed you could write this so quickly. I’m assuming it was quick because of the didgeridoo line.


    1. Yeah, this was a half-hour job. (But Luisa sometimes writes hers in as little as ten minutes! I know because there for a while last winter, she was in the habit of writing them immediately after I posted the prompting post at The Morning Porch.)


  3. It’s from childhood TV exposure, I’m still buzzing with half-life from a cartoon. The phrase was a Rosetta stone to an alien robot’s language.

    I’m remembering all this? I must have been activated.



    Who will tell you, or know what to tell you,
    what you have been pieced together for?

    Were you not made to wait for that one call?
    Words, numbers, cannot be trusted. Silence.

    That would be your only language. Muted. Wait
    in resigned silence, like the alloyed moonlight

    slipping past your silken bivouac into another
    night of waiting for a Silence on the sheets.

    No one is on this, no codes were made to break;
    nothing works except silence, suppliant/defiant.

    When your call comes, pray do not use the door,
    but climb down your cell from your window sill,

    clambering down clutching knotted sheets, like
    the thief descending on an airborne carpet…

    Against the obscured moonlight, your shadow
    disappears. This time, keep your grave’s silence.

    —Albert B. Casuga


  5. Love this one, Dave. (And I’m with Luisa about the last four lines, even more so now that I know about the coffee tin.)


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