Sleep! When you get enough of it, you take it for granted. When you don’t get enough – oh, how you miss it!
Well, tonight we’re quadrilling, and, yes – sleep is the word. You can use any variant you like – sleep, asleep, sleeping, sleepy… – just so long as your poem is 44 words long and contains that elusive sleep word.
When I was young, there were leaders like Maggie Thatcher, who claimed to only need four hours sleep a night. “Sleep is for wimps!” – there’s a dispute about whether she said that – it might have been Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses – but it seemed entirely believable. Thrusting, ambitious young people competed to get by with as little sleep as possible. And I was a junior doctor, doing a one in three on call, so I really did miss out on sleep.
Nowadays we’ve gone the other way. People stress about not getting enough sleep. People lie awake at night worrying about their insomnia. Sleep is the holy grail.
Here’s a poem by Wordsworth (who obviously understands the 4am horror of insomnia).
- A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky — I’ve thought of all by turns, and still I lie
Sleepless; and soon the small birds’ melodies
Must hear, first utter’d from my orchard trees,
And the first cuckoo’s melancholy cry. Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep, by any stealth:
So do not let me wear to-night away.
Without thee what is all the morning’s wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!
And here’s Pablo Neruda:
How neatly a cat sleeps,
sleeps with its paws and its posture,
sleeps with its wicked claws,
and with its unfeeling blood,
sleeps with all the rings-
a series of burnt circles-
which have formed the odd geology
of its sand-colored tail.
I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.
I have seen how the cat asleep
would undulate, how the night
flowed through it like dark water;
and at times, it was going to fall
or possibly plunge into
the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
like a tiger’s great-grandfather,
and would leap in the darkness over
rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.
Sleep, sleep cat of the night,
with episcopal ceremony
and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams;
control the obscurity
of our slumbering prowess
with your relentless heart
and the great ruff of your tail
So, give me your sleepy poems! Your poems of rest and relaxation, of drifting off into the golden haze of slumber! Your spiky poems of lying awake while your lover snores beside you! Your forty winks on a sunny afternoon!
You know the quadrille drill:
- Write a poem of 44 words including the magic quadrille word
- Link back to this post
- Link up with our old friend Mr Linky
- Take a little tour of some sleepy poetry