Thursday 4 August 2011

The Thief In The Night, or Life Is Too Short To Sleep Through

It came to me, quite suddenly, last night.
Perhaps I should amend this to: today,
it came to me today.
Bright shining hands informed me without passion,
that yesterday had been and gone,
more than an hour ago.

My pillows plumped, I lay
in the uncertain dark of  summer's night,
a single church bell
measuring segments of deathly silence,
sliced into equal portions,
reminding me that sleep is of the essence.

Tomorrow is another day,
a phrase to browbeat me into submission,
the tyranny of sleep a burden on my thoughts.
Everyone else around me has succumbed
to  dead of night,
trusting, anaesthetised.

The chattering noises of the day are stilled.
Demands on me have ceased.
Now I can breathe, my life my own,
no telephone, no world wide web,
all newscasts hushed,
the music of the night the only sound.

Body and soul at peace, I rest.
And then it came to me:
why must the book be closed,
the lamp extinguished,
the circling thoughts imprisoned and subdued,
the tyranny of sleep obeyed,
obligatory yet elusive.

For once, let me be free of this constraint,
Let me be wakeful,
the hanging moon my only company
until dawn's tender hand
dissolves the shadows of the night and brings
clamorous day once more to call on me.


  1. Hello:
    .....And,once upon a time we danced the night away and a good part of the following morning, but that was long ago.....

    How well you capture in this beautiful poem those hours between night and day when sleep eludes one and one's thoughts rattle ever onwards. And how now our imaginations race as to what exactly you got up to in those wee small hours!!!!

  2. this was quite beautiful
    you have captured so well the isolation of not sleeping
    sleep is necessary for the body and brain..but I guess some people don't need as much as others..and to make peace with that is a triumph

  3. You have captured well the play between the need of sleep and enjoying the stillness of those hours when it becomes elusive. And probably realizing how beautiful the stilness can be, relaxes one to find the elusive once again.

    Beautiful piece.

  4. Oh, I liked this a lot. It used to weigh on me, those sleepless nights. Now I just be awake, reading or writing or sometimes working on a model, enjoying the extra hours of awareness, the quiet and the solitude knowing that I will sleep the next night or the next when fatigue finally overcomes. Sleepless nights don't affect me the way they used to.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this Friko. A good reminder of all the constraints and "shoulds" with which we burden our one little life.

    Of course, there are certain laws of nature that demand obedience if our one little life is to continue - sleep being one of them.
    But it does seem like an unreasonable 'waste' of time. :)

  6. Friko, I never know what I'm going to find when I open up one of your posts. Night time is not a friend of mine these days, and sleep isn't something I take for granted. Now I'm going back to read again.

  7. This is a sweet thought. Just you and the hanging moon. I too, have found joy in the quiet of the night if I can't sleep. Acceptance and then sleep returns.

  8. The words of this lovely reminiscence that especially speak to me are "For once, let me be free of this constraint, Let me be wakeful, the hanging moon my only company."

    Like others who have commented, I have known many sleepless nights. Your poem and your photograph will now accompany me into the wellness of those nights. Thank you.

  9. Dear Friko, I mistyped my blog address when I left an earlier comment. So now I'm going to try and get it right! The day is cool here after a month in the high 90s and low 100s. So I'm a little giddy!

  10. My how I can understand this. And it's beautifully written. I used to, many moons ago, stay up 'til 3:00 in the morning just to get time to myself, now I have pretty much all of it to myself so my sleeping habits have changed. When I can sleep. I miss those late late nights. I felt as though I had the world all to myself for awhile.

    Really a wonderful poem.

  11. I can add nothing to previous comments:-)

  12. Lovely poem. It must be heavenly to hear the church bells in the night. We have to sleeep with our windows closed tight. Dianne

  13. Your poem was lovely Friko. It was too hot to sleep much here last night too!

  14. I've started several sentences and keep deleting them. This poem is full of tension: "the tyranny of sleep" versus "the hanging moon my only company" and "obligatory yet elusive." It's one I'm going to print out, and keep to re read.

    Thank you, Friko.

  15. Hi Friko .. the silence of the night steals our sleep - it is beautiful .. I get up and watch the foxes slinking around! Your photo .. is wonderful & I'd watch that all night ..

    Lovely poem .. thank you - Hilary

  16. I can only agree with those who have commented ahead of me. Another heartfelt poem, Friko.

  17. clamourous day - a wonderful phrase. I wish you blessed, quiet, restful sleep this night. Though don't let it stop you being so creative with your poems.

  18. Beautifully said. But staying awake at night is like strong drink; enjoy too much and you regret it the next day. Jim

  19. beautifully written friko...very elegant...night is when i come alive though i pay for it when the sun comes...

  20. For several years before I retired
    I used to rise at 3 a.m. and get
    off to the office by 4:30am, just
    to own the twilight, to have the
    solitude for writing, reading, and
    my new love four years ago:
    blogging. Sleepless nights have
    plagued me for a long time.
    Sometimes I dream that I am
    getting up to read more of the
    novel I'm immersed in. I used to
    keep a pad by the night stand,
    and would scribble down brilliant
    plot themes, and poetic lines;
    yet in the morning all I would
    find was so much gibberish.

  21. Beautifully experienced and written, Friko. These are reassuring thoughts that I will remember when I wake up, as I frequently do, in the middle of the night.

  22. That beautiful phtograph promised so much. And once again, your words delivered superlatively. I will have to visit this post again for images visual and verbal!

  23. What a beautiful poem. I will look on those hours when I am often awake between 2 and 5 am differently now. They are stolen hours just for me.

    I loved your previous post. If I were younger (and wealthier) I would be touring all over England visiting places like the centuries old buildings you showed. Luckily I did see some of them when I toured your beautiful country over 30 years ago. I always intended to come back, but it was never possible.

  24. I love this line "the tyranny of sleep a burden on my thoughts" — oh, my years of sleep deprivation!
    However, you're right about those hours, and I did learn to get up and do something, perhaps something requiring a minimum of concentration, instead of clock-watching.
    Sleep, as you said, "obligatory yet elusive"!
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  25. Yeah Buddy! I love the photo and I love the poem. This is what I like most about being alone and retired. Stay up until 3 am and sleep until noon if I so desire.

  26. That's lovely. Really evocative of those middle of the night feelings. Nice one.

  27. "the tyranny of sleep a burden on my thoughts."

    I can so relate to this. Thank you for a wonderful, evocative poem.

  28. A beautiful photo and your poem expresses so well what I have often thought.

  29. Beautiful piece, in which, as you do so often, you take an ordinary, recognizable state of being and turn conventional thought about it on its head. I look forward greatly to what I find at Friko's World on my return from Maine.

  30. Friko, this is a post that I will want to return to read again, and again.

    Over the years, my personal measuring of days and nights have changed many times. I am currently so glad to have the gift of instant deep sleep, but have to say I miss some wakefulness and the ability to remember more of my dreams.

    (Last week, for the first time ever, I dreamed that I was being seemed a happy occasion, but I never quite got a glimpse of the groom before I woke up!)

    You write beautifully! xo

  31. Trying to force sleep never works, but to be at peace with the acceptance of wakefulness is a beautiful thing. Gotta say though, I usually sleep like a rock, and Oh, how I love sleep!

  32. Wow! You have WAY too many comments already for me to read them all, unless I want to stay up and awake long into the night myself. Love the poem, the images, the call to do your own thing...

  33. 'the tyranny of sleep obeyed'

    So many tyrants, so little time ...

  34. Hmm, a woman after my own heart. Presently 11:41pm and I should go to bed. Probably won't. Best go out and see if the moon is hanging.

  35. ein wundervolles Gedicht, das schönste, was ich bisher von Dir gelesen habe (oder besser: das mir am meisten gefällt...). Ja, der Schlaf "zwingt" Geist und Körper auszuruhen, still zu sein, ansonsten würden einen die vielen täglichen Eindrücke wohl überwältigen...
    Dir ein sehr schönes sonniges Wochenende!

  36. Yes! Why indeed be held hostage to sleep?! Ha! Be free and enjoy the long nights' sight and sounds. Beautiful

  37. This poem resonated with me, and made me think about how to cope with my sleeplessness. Sometimes,I give up, and get up to read, or write. Most often I lay there and wish for sleep to overtake me. I read earlier that someone wants to print off this poem and I would like to also . . . to remind me to let my anxiousness about "needing" sleep go . . . float out the open window. Perhaps even accept that if my mind is awake, then maybe there is a reason for that.

  38. Friko - what lovely words you have captured the spirit of the night beautifully - I always sleep with my blinds open to gaze on the night sky - beautiful moon shot - have a great week - Jane

  39. If you can't enjoy sleep, you may as well enjoy being awake. There's a fine tension to this piece and a rhythm that speaks to the restlessness of being awake when the rest of the world is sleeping. The photo is a beautiful accompaniment.

  40. Beautifully said as usual. I do sometimes wonder why I can't embrace the night instead of trying to avoid it.

  41. The formula for me has always been to take a nap during the day. I have always wanted to live in a siesta culture, but being of English and German descent, no such luck. Still, I cherish my naps and the devil may care at night

  42. When I was working I'd get anxious when I couldn't sleep, because I knew I'd have to get up and go to work anyway.

    Now, if I wake up, it's okay. I can read or pet the cat, and know it will be okay.

  43. Indeed. Why ever not? We're big girls now; we can sleep when we please.

    My mother suffered from chronic and severe insomnia. She fought it for years until she finally embraced it, saying, "I don't want to lose an hour of living to sleep." And then she fell asleep in her chair, just as she always had.

    A good, strong poem.

  44. Thank you. Presumably Benno has his own bed downstairs? Otherwise your freedom of expression might have seriously restrained.

  45. I don't know whether I like the exquisite photo or the consummate poetry more. Regardless, they are a perfect match. Well done, Friko!

  46. If every sleepless night could be as beautiful and evocative as you have described I would not mind them so much (and then think of vanGogh who wrote that he found the colors of the night so much more beautiful than those of day).
    Thank you.

  47. So well captured. I love those hours of darkness, the only sound a nightbird's call and the music of the spheres as stars circle and dance. Moments of blissful, wakeful solitude.

  48. To see it this way, your way, is a relief, a freedom. Letting resistance go. Perfectly lovely. To be alone with the night and that hanging moon.


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