The Sleep Council

by F.J. Williams

I admire those who can sleep on armchairs
leaving a small ruin of themselves behind,
a squashed cushion, the shape of the head,
a single earring slipped down the sofa:
it’s never enough just to drop off.

And there are those who prefer a blanket
to the soft ambush of the furniture,
elbows in, knees up to the chest, curling
their weakest spots into the fabric, leg, belt
and groin while the party dies around them.

Some sleep with the plough and hunters in the sky.
Others find grace in awkwardness, discomfort,
disappearing on a mountain, pitons
stuck for ever and a sling of chain.
Some wait within the ice until the spring.

There’s the one-pound-bed in the lodging house,
lost razor, toothbrush and billy-can,
and the hot-bed shared in shifts;
the hammock on a ship slackening overnight,
the plank-bed that returns us to the sea.
In the east, sleep means a casket,
loft arrangements, making yourself a yurt,
the frazz of antiquity like a lilo,
a bag for meditation you fill with breath
that serves you during zazan at the dawn.

I think of the heart, three parts fire, a scan.
I’m holding out for fragments,
the power nap, forty winks, a doze
in the leadened, dead exactitude of schedule planning,
waking up with items clanking in the brain’s tin cup.

How easy to miss a life and disappear
beneath a snowfall of emails, sales receipts,
in the failed state of work, endure crap sleep
and have black eyes and sit this one out.
Now we have a list, the Sleep Council tips

for spikes in anxiety and Aphrodite’s bed.
Click to find a showroom on the web;
a flameproof mattress to remember your shape.
Now twilight gives an hour for pillow talk.
And brings us tales of immortal men.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has nearly 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

With innovative education and commissioning programmes and a packed calendar of performances, readings and competitions, the Poetry Society champions poetry for all ages.

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