All Nighter

sop, cl, pf

Performed by Playground Ensemble

All Nighter was commissioned by Playground Ensemble with a gift from Anne Culver in 2013, and premiered in May 2014. The text of the piece has its origins in a stream-of-consciousness journal that I kept during my brief stint as an undergraduate creative writing major. Although I did have the Creation of Adam as my desktop background during that time (and a few disapproving roommates to go with it), the poem is not entirely autobiographical. For instance, I have never written a paper on Donne’s Holy Sonnets, and I’m not sure that I can imagine a situation in such a paper in which it would seem preferable to avoid the active voice. However, I’m sure such a situation could exist, and if it did, consuming Ramen noodles late at night would only exacerbate the problem (particularly if the protagonist happened to be an undiagnosed celiac). For any art history buffs who may take issue with my text, I would like to close by pointing out that Michelangelo – unlike Charlton Heston – did not paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling while lying on his back. However, by 4 A.M. the speaker of the poem has forgotten this…


My roommates say the Creation of Adam
Is a most unsuitable desktop background
For a freshman who brainstorms a paper on Donne’s Holy Sonnets
At 2 AM

(Due at ten tomorrow, no late work accepted…!)

While Michelangelo stands – head tipped back – on the scaffolding,
Adding appropriate pectoral shading,
I type five pages of earnest rubbish
In double-spaced 12-point font.

(One-inch margins. Avoid all uses of the first person plural personal pronoun…Otherwise known as “We,” as in “We are told not to do this, but authors of scholarly articles do it all the time.”)

The lights on the tower of the Ritchie Center went off at 12:09 am.
Instant Ramen noodles tie Medusan knots in my semi-colon.
The gentle cussing in the hallways ceased
Two hours ago or more,
I hear the regular breathing of millions of pairs of lungs overlapping:
Exhalation – inhalation – interlocking – moth wings.

My roommates claim the Creation of Adam
Is philosophically problematic
For a freshman who’s lacking a thesis and clear transitions
By 4 AM

(Avoid all uses of the passive voice…But what if you have a sentence where it sounds DUMB to emphasize the thing doing the action over the thing receiving it?)

While Michelangelo lies on his back
While Michelangelo lies on his back
While Michelangelo lies on his back on the scaffolding
To paint the unborn in the mind of God

His tallow candle drips
And burns my hand.

Megan Buness (soprano), Brian Ebert (clarinet), Kristen Jürgens (piano)