Poem of the Week: ‘Cannae Sleep’ by Michael Pedersen

  02 Mar '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Michael Pedersen’s 2017 poetry collection Oyster brims briny with poems on all subjects: love, life, travel, sex, Scotland, politics. ‘Cannae sleep’, an inferno of intrusions on much-desired slumber contains all the hallmarks of the collection: playfulness, rueful wit, pace, and lashings of salt. Like a restless mind, the poem races round and round, capturing the frustrations and recriminations of those nights when you.just.cannot.sleep.

Cannae Sleep
by Michael Pedersen

 If not for that blasted boiler bellowing
 as if hawking up soot and phlegm
 or a nettling sensation parading
 over freckled skin; if not for
 your legs jolting like a wind-up
 toy gone bananas or the fact I
 hear breath, feel and nearly see
 breath at the foot of the bed; if not for
 roving creatures smearing
 handprints over the damp,
 rattling window on which
 the moon has painted itself,
 I’d be sound asleep, blissfully dreaming,
 sculpting plots so gratifying
 I’d applaud myself on waking,
 remarking, well dreamt kid,
 in the manner of a baseball coach
 praising an underrated player,
 whose homer just won the game.

 If not for shattered bone
 tightening in my right index,
 triggering a seeping pain
 which sluggishly curls
 around breaks that never quite
 healed; if not for that second 
 cup of heaped coffee, abundant
 sugar in wine; if not for rock
 shock wilderness challenging
 far-off vastness, if not for
 a lack of mental shelf space
 or the storm outside shaking the air
 like tambourines, rainsticks and maracas,
 the wind, full cantata, torpedoing
 trees, howling like an orgy
 of giddy banshees, terrifying
 the neighbour’s darling
 kids; or the thought of
 missing cats drenched ’n’ greetin’
 sheltering in doorways,
 the meat on them attracting
 Thought Foxes, the cinematic
 plop of weighty drips plus the clock:
 that fucking clock, tick-tocking
 though the hands fell off
 years ago; if not for unlit
 candles wobbling on china
 saucers keen to burn –
 implying they could be smoking stars – illuminating
 the scuffed boots and cracked pots below; if not
 for shapes and figures
 swirling around in darkness
 like paint splat on water for marbling
 paper; if not for my scant body hair
 making itself known, gloating
 and breeding, if not
 for aw o’ that, I’d be sound, sound
 asleep; all of that and today’s late
 rise and the poker-faced
 clerk in Tesco that got me
 thinking: I’ve lost many more
 morals than I’d care to admit. Yes, all, all,
 all of that and one last
 secret (or two) I daren’t even utter
 or you’d wake up, sit
 bolt upright and that’d be
 the end of that. 

from Oyster, 2017
Click for more information about Oyster
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