The City Insists

The city insists
it only uses our minds
when we’re asleep
I always wonder about the times
I doze off during the day
because I never sleep well at night

The city insists
without our brains’ computing power
there will be disaster
Like yesterday, when no one
had heat, or last week when
the streetlights failed

The city insists
these tragedies are the fault
of those who refuse to dedicate their sleep
instead of providing both the labor
of their bodies while awake
and of their minds when asleep

The city insists
loyalty has always meant
our sleep is best spent
running systems
calculating percentages
tabulating acceptable losses

The city insists
the nightmares have nothing
to do with the latest course
of sleep-dedication pills
the deaths are coincidences only
their systems tell them it is so


—Devan Barlow