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Poetry Blog: ‘The cold does not embrace you.’

I’ve written about sleep and sleeplessness quite a few times before. It’s a topic that I keep returning to because every once in a while I’ll find my sleep pattern disturbed and often for a few nights in a row I’ll find myself either lying awake and unable to focus on sleep because my mind is racing or just out of bed, sitting downstairs in our house, wide awake.

This is a poem that focuses on the former of those two scenarios, although as a result of my mind racing, I eventually got out of bed and wrote the poem. It was a night where, if I’m honest, I’m not sure whether I was awake or sleeping fitfully and suffering with nightmares. One thing’s for sure; it wasn’t a pleasant night’s sleep and there was a lot that disturbed me. You think that nightmares are things you left behind in childhood, but then get reminded that you’re sadly mistaken!

The cold does not embrace you
yet, for a short time its shiver soothes your skin
like a smooth palm comforting you through illness, fear.
An uneasy dream shifts and your thoughts are strangers
caught in the void between the fevered images of disturbed sleep
and the disquieting thud of your heart as you realise you're awake again.
Without warning, the rough skin of working hands grabs at your jaw,
takes hold, clutches.
A strangers eyes stare out from a familiar face,
gripped by a mood you know all too well,
before one last squeeze,
then the calloused hand, shoves your face away viciously,
like an imperfect toy on a production line, rejected
not good enough to be loved.
You blink to try and wake only to find another face now,
her hot breath invading your nostrils,
her gibberish bringing spittle to your skin,
her disapproval at the runt of the litter writ large
in neon across unloving eyes and twisted expression
informing you again of what feels like their hatred,
before words are put in your mouth and you flounder,
helpless against a place you don't belong,
a jigsaw you don't fit.
Shaking free, you brace yourself, 
turn your collar against the piercing winter and stumble forward,
in search of somewhere warm.
And while these ghosts will always haunt you 
with their chill,
every once in a while the winter sun will warm your skin.

It feels like there are two antagonists in this poem. The first I’m not sure of and it would be unkind to speculate. However, the second is definitely my grandmother, who was someone that I had a fractious relationship with, at best. She was a woman who never seemed to display any warmth whatsoever to me, which as a child was quite perplexing. In company with my many cousins, I remember she’d frequently refer to me as ‘this one’ while everyone else got called by their name. Let’s just say that it was clear I wasn’t her favourite! I can’t say that her treatment of me didn’t bother me, as it did. But as I got old enough to make my own choices, I just decided to avoid being in the same room as her. Even now though, there are occasions when she comes to mind and it’s never pleasant. Hence, the words in the latter half of the poem.

I tried to end the poem on a more positive note, just explaining what I’ve just mentioned, really. Childhood memories will always be there and will always crop up and affect your day. But there’s always a positive to be found.

I hope you enjoyed the poem or at least it had some kind of effect on you as a reader. The memories I’ve written about were incredibly vivid and I hope that feeling is conveyed by what I’ve written. As ever, feel free to leave a comment.

Poetry Blog: Fragment

I’m returning to familiar territory with this poem; sleeplessness. It’s something I suffer with every once in a while, so it’s not a terrible problem, but it can leave me feeling absolutely exhausted for a few days. As a result, I often find myself somewhere between a zombie and a purely functional human being, particularly at work.

This was a poem I believe was written a few months back. In fact, to begin with it wasn’t a complete poem as it was a kind of ‘something’ that I found on the bottom half of a page in my notebook , sat beneath a different, finished poem. I didn’t even notice it when I went back to write the other up for another blog as it just looked like 10 lines worth of notes. Thankfully, I found it again when flicking through the same notebook a few weeks ago. Once I’d given it a read I decided that I’d have to sit back down and get it finished.

I have a vague memory of finishing the poem at the top of the page and deciding to head back to bed. However, before I’d gotten up out of the chair another few lines arrived in my head and I sat back down to see what I could put together. I imagine it was another half an hour before I headed back upstairs. Anyway, it turned into the poem below.

The sounds of your sleeping collide with that of the pulse echoing around my head in the otherwise silent room. Awake again.
It prompts me to move, eventually, sleepily, stumbling out of the room.
On the landing I freeze at movement in an adjacent room
as someone stirs.
Trying not to wake them, I imagine their panic and confusion in a darkened room, perhaps abruptly departing a dream
and still myself for a moment while they return once more to their slumber.
Toes curled over the edge of every stair, I descend cautiously, robotically
before brutally puncturing the silence with electronic noise and light
as I disable the alarm, listening for a stretched out moment
before silently opening a door to pad across the pitch black front room.
The irony is not lost on me as my eyes refuse to wake fully,
my vision comfortably blurred around the edges as I finally sit
and wonder what to do now.

I like to take myself off downstairs when I can’t sleep. First and foremost it means that I’ve got less chance of waking of the rest of the family. One of the main reasons for getting out of bed in the first place is so that I don’t wake my wife. The other reason is that I enjoy the silence of the downstairs of the house. Eventually I’ll settle at the dining room table either to get some ideas down in a notebook – if it’s ideas for writing or lines for a potential poem that have woken me. And this was what happened here.

I called the poem ‘Fragments’ for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because that’s what it was when I found it; just fragments of an idea. Lines scribbled down underneath a completed poem like I’d just had enough and wanted to just get some sleep. I also called it fragments as a reference to my sleep at these types of times. Sleep is fragmented when I’m like this. I’ll usually sleep for a little bit and then wake up, unable to get back to it. It’s then that I find myself getting up. Even when I eventually head back to bed I often can’t sleep and will wake up regularly when I do.

As usual I’d love to read any comments about the poem. I hope you enjoyed it.