Tag Archives: Sleep

Sleep

Sleep

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.

 

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In the Ditch

IN THE DITCH

So I’m standing here, nonchalantly,
next to a bench half submerged in foliage.
It’s also on the edge of a ditch.
I’m watching David Cameron,
and one of his Tory cronies,
as they approach the bench,
clutching packets of sandwiches.
Cameron and crony sit on the bench;
begin to munch their sarnies.
They completely ignore me,
the insignificant prole sitting
at the other end of their bench.
Oh yes, I’m sitting there now, aren’t I;
not standing. How did that happen?
Oh, well. Part of me wants to warn
the ex-P.M. “Don’t sit there, Dave”
I want to say. “It’s dangerous. It’s on
the edge of a ditch, and there are also
HUGE insects, creeping around in the
shrubbery”. But another part of me
wants to leave the Tory twats to their fate.
It’s that part that wins; so I say nothing.

Next minute, one of the HUGE insects
manifests itself. A black beetle; slimy,
covered in scales, with multiple eyes,
claws, and pincers. It’s growing larger,
second by second. Cameron and crony
seem to spot it, out of the corners of
their eyes. Languid, insouciant, they
rise to their feet, still nibbling their
sandwiches. I’m smiling with satisfaction
and schadenfreude. “You need to move
faster than that, mate,” I’m thinking “or the
beetle will get you”. But then I notice
the beetle seems to have lost interest
in the Tories, and has turned its attention
to me. It’s my turn to jump to my feet,
as claws and pincers snap away,
ominously close behind me.
But what’s happening now?! There’s a
grassy verge in front of me, and the grass
is sliding, slipping away from me.
I can’t seem to get any purchase on it.
The beetle is going to get me!
No! Oh, no!

Next second, I’m falling, rolling,
off the side of the bed; my hands
pawing, frantically, in mid-air.
I land on my back, on the floor;
half-asleep, half-awake. I’ve pulled
all the sheets, and the duvet,
off the bed, on top of me. I’m lying
on the dust-covered floor; cobwebs,
spiders, creepy-crawlies, God knows
what else, all around me. All right,
maybe I should hoover the bedroom
floor sometime. It’s pitch-black;
the middle of the night. The bright
red digits of my bedside alarm clock
showing 2.45 a.m. Worse still,
I’m stuck; wedged between
the bed and the otiose wall-heater,
protruding from the bedroom wall.
I can’t lever myself up off the floor;
nowhere for my arms to push.
I don’t believe this! I’ve fallen;
done a sort of forward roll, off the side
of the bed. I’ve never, ever, done that
before, in my entire life! Propelled by
the force of the dream, the insouciance
of the Tory twats, the horror of that
black beetle.

I’ll be sleepwalking, next!

Like most people, I suspect, I can rarely remember what dreams I’ve had during the night, no matter how powerful the dreams may have been.  So the dream described in the above poem is a rare exception.  The poem is fairly self-explanatory, I think; but I have no rational interpretation of what the dream could have meant, and no explanation of why it had such a powerful effect upon me. 

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Gaga

THE FLATS (6): GAGA

These flats corral more than the
feckless young, the drug-sellers,
the drug-takers, the indigent,
the “underclass”, the immigrants
from near and far. These flats
also hold the ageing, the ancient,
the gaga.

Three o’clock in the morning,
the full-voiced cry.
Three o’clock in the morning;
no reason why.

“Mummy, Daddy! . . . Mummy, Daddy!
Mummy, Daddy! . . . Wheee!”
The elderly woman in the flat below me;
at 3 o’clock in the morning, she has woken me.
She has hair of steel, eyes of stone;
sturdy legs of sinew and bone.
At 3 o’clock in the morning, she has broken me.
“Daddy! . . . Shot!” A thunderous silence.
“Daddy! . . . Shot!” The full-voiced cry
echoes, questioning how and why.
How and why did her “Daddy” die?

I face her; plead with her to stop.
I mask my fear, my fright.
She plants her feet firmly;
spoils for a fight. Her grey eyes
glimmer with unearthly light.
“You shouldn’t speak to me like that,
it ain’t right! Lots of people
talk to themselves in the night!”

Three o’clock in the morning,
the full-voiced cry.
Three o’clock in the morning;
no reason why.

Another poem in my on-going sequence about events and characters in the flats where I happen to live.  Although I am in the middle of writing this sequence at the moment, some of the occurrences happened quite a while ago.  The events that inspired “Gaga” occurred a few years ago, and the elderly lady mentioned in it has long since passed away.  I attempted to write about it in the form of a short story, about a year ago.  The story took three weeks of hard labour to write, but I must admit that – after expending all that sweat, strain, time and trouble –  I feel I’ve captured the essence of what happened much more effectively in this short poem.

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