Poem in which Sleep is a Polyrhythm

‘The average amount of sleep required by an adult is thirty minutes more.’

1. Sleep is a circadian rhythm, which is a roughly twenty four-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological, or behavioural processes of living entities.

Thirty minutes more of damp sheets and a flaky ceiling. Do I moan about a lucid dream where I lie awake, where I dream about staring at the cracks that stretch from my roof through the walls to the veins in my wrists, and somewhere it is spring? Somewhere the smell of jasmine. Where the train of thought began, ended, was going—if I ever slept.

2. Ultradian rhythms are recurrent periods or cycles repeated throughout a twenty-four hour circadian day, e.g. the 90 to 120 minute cycling of the stages during sleep.

I woke up looking at his face, touched his lips and said jasmine. There are two images in my head; his face and a hedge of flowers. I touch his lips. I say jasmine. Run my finger along his bottom lip, while we both lie there in the bed. Jasmine. When I stop he tells me to do it again.

3. Infradian rhythms occur over a period of time longer than twenty-four hours, for example, seasonal change, tidal cycles and menstruation.

Rhythms ricocheted between body and sleep, the slamming of doors and the cracks up the walls. Inside my furnace the codeine ran out. No thoughts but pulses, no sounds but colours, no colours but one. Red. I’m coiled round my body as to protect, as a hand cradles a candle in the wind. I am cold. I am burning. It is nearly morning.

4. The beginning.

A thin moan drips from my mouth. Wrung like a pair of stained knickers on a clothesline slung between sleep and waking. I break the surface of dreams. Where I see jasmine and run my finger along his lip. A hedge of flowers that I touch while we both lie there in the heat. I stop and he tells me to do it again. Jasmine. He pulls me closer and finally, I sleep, for thirty minutes or more.

Holly Isemonger


One comment

  1. Wendy · December 3, 2014

    Love this poem – so much vivid imagery – any person who has trouble sleeping can relate.

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