Can’t sleep

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Can't sleep.
     Four in the morning and I can't sleep.
     Bedclothes too hot, too heavy.
Can't sleep.
     Kick them off.
     Too cold.
Can't sleep.

Can't sleep.
     The church bells ring off-rhythm quarters.
          Three in the morning.
               Quarter past.
               Quarter to.
     Count them.
Can't sleep.

Can't sleep.
     Window open, window closed.
     Makes no difference.
Can't sleep.
     Third night.
     Quarter chimes.
Can't sleep.

This is the time when all my failures come back to me.
     Parade around the bed, shaking my arm, clamouring in silence for attention.
          Me? Remember me?
     The time you said -
          wished you hadn't.
     The time you chose -
          knew you shouldn't.
     The time you were passive  -
          ought to have acted.
     The time you said nothing -
          should've spoken up.
     The promises you broke.
     The friends you lost.
     The hurts you caused.
     They stand around the bed, climb in with you, shout in whispers.
          Wrap around.
          Weigh you down.
          Boil you. Chill you.
          Sweat you. Choke you.
          Press you. Cramp you.
     Steal your sleep and leave you counting -
          church bells.
     Half four.
Can't sleep.

The Black Dog wants its due.

Notes for Can’t Sleep

I was staying with my sister. She and her husband live in what used to be an idyllic English countryside village. Now it’s a dormitory community for Northampton – no shops, no services, one pub (that doesn’t do food). And the church.

The churchyard starts at the bottom of the garden, just over the wall. Cue jokes about the neighbours being as quiet as the grave. The church tower, though, houses a small peal of bells connected to a clockwork mechanism that loses about 45 seconds every day. By the end of the week the clock (and the bells) are five minutes slow. The bells strike a version of the melody the English associate with Big Ben in Westminster (Westminster Quarters).

It goes against the grain for me to call it a melody. One of the quarter chime bells is off-key as well as being hesitant. The chime is: ding, dong, er-dink, dong. And it plays all bloody night. On a hot summer’s night, when you want to have the window open, the bells are not conducive to sleep. Especially if your head is awash with other thoughts.

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