In 1985, I lost the knack of sleeping, and I blame it on Porter-Gaud School. Even the year before I started teaching there, I slept, if not like a baby, like a serene thirty-something who enjoyed the more than occasional malted beverage and could count on eight interrupted hours.
However, in August of 1985, the night before my very first day of teaching high school, my eyes popped open at 3 am like two too tightly wound window shades springing to the top of the sill.
Suddenly, I’m awake and awake and awake. That inaugural night, I kept repeating in my head, “I got to get asleep, I got to get asleep, I got to get asleep,” huffing along like “The Little Train That Couldn’t,” but I didn’t drift off until a scant forty minutes or so before the alarm was set to blast me awake.
So, of course, I shuffled muck-headed through that first day like an extra from Dead Men Walking, making, as zombies tend to do, a bad impression.
However, I swear on my freshly deceased mother’s grave, I’ve never suffered insomnia quite as bad as last night/this morning, so to try to block out those para-paranoid thoughts that swarm like bats at 3am on weeknights, I composed an Italian sonnet in imitation to Sir Philip Sidney’s famous Sonnet 39, “To Sleep.” It’s an intricate form, with iambic pentameter as its meter and an abbaabbacdecde rhyme scheme that severely limits vocabulary. I thought that the exercise would wear me out as I lay there Homer-like in the dark without pen or paper, but alas, it did not.
So here it is, and I dedicate it to my fellow insomniacs.
To Sleep 2.0.1
“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care” – Macbeth
Yo, Morpheus, you sadistic bastard,
Where the fuck are you? Snorting crystal meth
with the Sand Man? Can’t you see I’m a wreck,
tossing and turning like mad — backwards,
sideways? Even bedbugs have left in distress
in search of a habitat less turbulent. Fuck,
man, I swear I’ll put a noose around my neck!
My sleeve of care has unraveled past my wrist,
all the way up to my elbow! Swerve in a sestet?
How? Why? Nothing changes hour-after-hour:
drip drop drip drop drop drop drop – disturbing
thought follows disturbing thought. My sweat-
ing self craves relief! You have the power,
sweet Morpheus, to sing me to sleep. Sing!