Category Archives: Sleepless nights

Paper thin

In the small hours
I listen to the busy
comings and goings
of ambulances

swapping stories
from behind
the paper thin facade
of everyday


El Horcajo

The hills like dusty waves –
and that’s an eagle, surely,
floating over El Horcajo.

A herd of black pigs
snuffle close to greet the car
along the bumpy track.

Dishevelled chickens
stalk the courtyard
stabbing at grains of corn.

Behind the wire-mesh window
a yellow digger dozes
in the evening sun.

Dusk, and a restless bird calls
in a foreign language.
On the edge of sleep

the sound of phantom cowbells.
In the small hours
thin dogs howl from hill

to distant hill:
discordant whale song
in this sea of soil.


In the Still of the Night

I wake in the still of the night
and scribble a note in the dark.

I wake at dawn; in the half-light
puzzle over the hieroglyphs

whose meaning I cannot now
make out – and suddenly

catch a glimpse of my father’s life
at eighty-six,

half-waking
on his side of a half empty bed

to a semblance of light, a mockery
of consciousness,

lost in time, groping for things,
words, explanations,

anything to hold on to,
no matter how silly it sounds

to those who cannot understand
that figures on invoices

forever refuse
to add up, buttons on dishwashers

wander, and the phone
only connects you to strangers.


Yellowstone

After the geysers come the restless nights.
I’m my own Yellowstone: as sulphur mists
dissolve the rim of consciousness

my superheated soul spouts similes,
mixed metaphors thud from the mudpool
of my bubbling brain, hissing hyperboles

ricochet off the walls of lodgepole pine;
from underneath the floorboards fumaroles
steam acid vapour. The silver lining

to these endless nights: sleeplessness
crystallized in syllables; the scalloped edge
around the hotspring of my seething mind.


Prague awakening

A blackbird binds the fragments of dreams
with the twine of his song;
a scattered archipelago of reality
emerges from the night:

clang of dawn deliveries; rumble
of dustmen’s carts on cobblestones;
the dragging steps of the Golem
after a night’s watch over his precarious city.


The bathroom Schwanen, Bernau

A welcoming bathroom, this: blond wood and glass,
the white enamel washbasin fashionably raised
above the shiny white top. And it was talking to me.

The air was alive with hissing and burbling, with ticking
and clicks, snatches of songs; and borne on this stream,
now, and again now, half-caught, the ghosts of words.

Doubtless a rational explanation applied, involving valves,
matters of pressure, bubbles of air trapped in pipes –
but still: that room had a message for me. In the dark

it was whispering secrets; in the small hours its hisses
grew desperate, offering the answers to all my questions –
and I lay listening all night, too tired to understand –