"-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Frigg | Spring/Summer 2023 | Insomnia with a Sliver of Cheesecake | Shannon K. Winston
artwork for Shannon K. Winston's poem Insomnia with a Sliver of Cheesecake

Insomnia with a Sliver of Cheesecake
Shannon K. Winston

Tonight, the moon is a sliver of cheesecake.
              Blueberry cheesecake is my favorite.

I dislike tests and questionnaires.
              In 1990, researchers developed the Penn State Worry Questionnaire.

The fan whisks my thoughts.
              Worry is hypervigilance, self-protection, OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder—

Worry is clammy hands, numb feet.
              Rank 1 to 5: Once I start worrying, I can’t stop.

Yesterday, I counted over two hundred blueberries strewn across the sidewalk.
              I never count sheep.

Worry is shaky voice, shaky body, shaky hands.
              Yes, I circle the number 5: that’s typical of me.

When I am under pressure, I worry a lot. Also, 5.
              My doctor said to limit my sugar intake.

I’m fine, that’s fine—things I say when I’m not.
              Remember “opposite day?” I asked my mother. She’s a fantastic baker.

Worry is “get it together.” I should know better.
              The key is to make the cheesecake batter creamy and smooth.

Once I start worrying, I can’t stop.
              The fan blows my worries like a kiss.

My mother asks me how I stop my anxiety. I give her tips:
              eat blueberries. They quiet the mind. Bathe in Epsom salts. Count to five.

From what I’ve read, anxiety is genetic.
              From what I hear, my grandfather and great-grandfather had nervous tics.

When I worry, I read about worry’s history.
              Worry, from “wirien,” meaning to slay, kill or injure by biting or shaking the throat.

Oizys was the Greek goddess of worry.
              Dressed in midnight blue, she plotted revenge.

Cheesecake should never be a source of anything except pure bliss, one recipe reads.
              The blueberries on the sidewalk stained my shoes.

Oizys was estranged from everyone except her sister.
              Immune to disease, she never looked a day over nineteen.

At 3 a.m., I turn on my lamp; light splashes cream on the wall.
              Oizys, did your craving for vengeance keep you up at night?

Just dreamy, decadent, nonstop bliss, the same recipe promises.
              I stare through my open bedroom window.

The screen is a strainer.
              I try and try to shove my worries through tiny wire holes.

* * *
The poem above draws from a variety of sources, including: “How to Make the Perfect Cheesecake” by Emma Christensen in The Kitchn (October 5, 2021); “Why We Worry” by Victoria Stern in American Scientific (November 1, 2009); the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (1990); blogs on Oizys (the goddess of misery, anxiety, and suffering in Greek mythology); and the etymology of the word “worry” from Etymonline. Italics denote direct citation.

Shannon K. Winston’s Comments

Working with a wide range of images and material, I sought to create a multilayered portrait of insomnia. In doing so, I relied on associational leaps and surprising connections to probe the inner workings of an anxious, sleep-deprived mind.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 61 | Spring/Summer 2023