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