Clocks do not work properly
at night. I have learnt
to treat my bedside clock
as an untrustworthy ally.
I trek across an arid desert,
an endless duration of hours,
yet the clock tells me
only five minutes have elapsed.
I turn over in bed, look again
at the clock; it tells me
an hour has gone by.
I retreat to my bed at night,
to seek the nourishment,
the restorative powers of sleep.
But sleep is a mystery; it baffles
the best minds of modern science.
It is more than capable of frustrating
my puny efforts to reach it.
Normal laws of physics
do not apply in my bedroom
at night. Time contracts,
stops, stutters, starts again.
Time expands, sometimes infinitely,
sometimes like a band of elastic
that stretches and snaps, suddenly,
like the calf muscles in my legs.
I awake in unbearable agony.
There seems to have been a plethora of programmes about sleep on TV and radio recently. How much sleep do we really need? Why are more and more people having difficulty sleeping? What happens when we are asleep? Why do we need to sleep at all? And so on, and so on. . . I suppose it’s one of those universal subjects we’re recurrently obsessed about, partly because nobody seems to really know the answers to the questions. Then you have the related subject of dreaming, which is even more mysterious.
I never sleep well when the weather is hot, as it has been recently, and I have been trying to sleep on top of the duvet, instead of between the sheets. I was awake early one morning, after another unsatisfactory night’s sleep, and I suddenly started getting ideas for the above poem.