Alice Friman’s “Insomnia in Moonlight” in The Gettysburg Review Fall 2019 is a moving poem that grapples with a popular theme within this issue: death. Friman handles the topic delicately, with humor, and with heft. The poem is broken into four irregular stanzas beginning with the dead waking in the night, making noise. This stanza read with immediate intrigue through the life Friman breathed into death about a speaker who cannot sleep because the dead are alive in their thoughts. It suggests playfulness, too, written with a lighter tone than often associated with death and mourning.
Friman then equates the dead to the sun, something bright and fixed, and the speaker to the changeable moon, “she wears my child face—round, / sunburnt, and pensive.” The final lines in the poem are the most striking, offering up the speaker’s recount of a total eclipse where the moon tried to “blot out the sun.” It felt like a reflection of their desire to hold death in their hands and make sense of it, but the speaker admits that the moon fails in its attempt to resist permanence, to resist, as Friman puts so eloquently in her final two lines: “geometric progression, the unerasable / dead, and everything else I don’t understand.”
Reviewer bio: Emily Lowe is an MFA candidate in Nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she is also a fiction editor for Ecotone literary magazine.