Poem-mas Day 6: Fighting The Early Hours

Poem-mas Day 6: Fighting The Early Hours

Whoops! Bit of a late one, this — I was singing in our church’s carol service this evening, and while I’d hoped to get the blog post done this afternoon, I slept instead. Because naps. However, since I know a lot of my readers are in other timezones, I guess it doesn’t matter when I post as long as I do.

Today’s poem is once again from Crossroads Poetry. It originates from a point in my life when I was suffering a lot from insomnia — a lot of my poems were written in the early hours of the morning, and many of them were angry rants about the fact that I couldn’t sleep! This one, Fighting The Early Hours, was one of the very first poems I wrote in 2014, and the first in my notebook for that year.

Although I turned my description of myself into a poem here, I did so in third person, which was largely to do with the inspiration for the poem: my reflection. I saw myself in the mirror, and was taken aback by how I looked in my moment of exhaustion. This created a sort of otherness to the character featured in the poem, which is probably why I borrowed my own words for a piece of fiction more recently.

In the first book in the Moth Trilogy, Butterfly of Night, my character Isabel is woken up my stomachache and the description runs like this:

When she’s able to stand she makes her way to the tiny bathroom in her flat and turns on the light. Her face stares out at her from the mirror: pale, dark shadows like bruises under her eyes. Another spasm of pain and she winces. She sees the whole thing reflected back at her as though she’s watching someone else go through it.

Then, a few paragraphs later:

her eyes are dark pits of insomnia in the mirror

Funny how a single night’s frustration gave birth to a poem and this description, but that happens to me often enough. I like nicking my own experiences and giving them to my characters, drawing on simple things like a late-night anxiety attack and using them to describe something far more dramatic, because the feelings are often the same, only intensified.

While not from the exact same date as the poem (it's about a week later), this rather grim selfie gives a fairly accurate idea of how I looked at the time.
While not from the exact same date as the poem (it’s about a week later), this rather grim selfie gives a fairly accurate idea of how I looked at the time.

So I’ve give you the fictionalised prose version of my experience, but now I’ll give you the poem I wrote on the night that I went to the bathroom in the early hours and saw just how terrible I looked in the mirror. I’m not sure I entirely like the way I wrote this one: I think if I was writing it now, I’d do it differently, in terms of stylistic choices. But I think that about most of my poems as my style changes and develops. This is a remnant of January 2014, and I’m holding myself back from editing it!


— — —

Fighting The Early Hours

Her eyes are like bruises, as though 2am
punches her in the face every time they meet
amid the faded glow of alarm-clock hands
and the crumpled sheets of a sleepless night.

She has chewed and skinned her lips
so that they are scarlet and swollen
in a face tired and empty of the colours
save for this red and those purple shadows.

Her fingers clench her tangled unwashed hair
and she cries out to ask why sleep flees
and evades her hour after hour of darkness
to leave her in this solitary restless world.

She is tired and desperate for sleep to come
but it is forbidden and the hands turn
to batter her repeatedly with the minutes
and the endless hours of her insomnia.

— — —

I have to head back to Cambridge tomorrow for a hospital appointment re: coeliac stuff, so it’s possible I won’t get a Poem-mas post up. I probably should have written one in advance and scheduled it but I am terribly disorganised at the moment. If I don’t, I’ll be back on Tuesday. Otherwise, see you tomorrow!

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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