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When I Awaken in the Night…

I have a little plan I usually follow. First, I pray for anyone who comes to mind. Then I try to fall back asleep. If that does not work within a few minutes, I turn on the light, pick up a poetry anthology, and read for a few minutes.

What I love about reading poetry at 3 a.m. is that I can get an entirely new image in my head. It becomes a distraction from not sleeping.

Here are a few poems I love. So many to choose from! (I prefer fairly short, uncomplicated, non-disturbing poems at that time of night.)


Lending Out Books

by Hal Sirowitz

You’re always giving, my therapist said.

You have to learn how to take. Whenever

you meet a woman, the first thing you do

is lend her your books. You think she’ll

have to see you again in order to return them.

But what happens is, she doesn’t have the time

to read them, & she’s afraid if she sees you again

you’ll expect her to talk about them, & will

want to lend her even more. So she

cancels the date. You end up losing

a lot of books. You should borrow hers.

A Little Tooth

by Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,

and four, and five, then she wants some meat

directly from the bone. It’s all

over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall

in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet

talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue

nothing. You did, you loved, your feet

are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

Poem to Be Read at 3 A.M.

by Donald Justice

Excepting the diner

On the outskirts

The town of Ladora

At 3 A.M.

Was dark but

For my headlights

And up in

One second-story room

A single light

Where someone

Was sick or

Perhaps reading

As I drove past

At seventy

Not thinking

This poem

Is for whoever

Had the light on.

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the crickets take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.


I wish you a good night’s sleep tonight.

Nature, God, and poetry—very comforting to me.

God bless,

Pat Durmon

P.S. I read and write poetry. My books are listed below. If one looks interesting, click the link. It will take you to its Amazon page, and you can "Look inside" the book and read some reviews. Also, I’d enjoy reading a comment on how you help yourself fall back into Sleepyland.

Hayfield in a valley near Norfork, Arkansas, early evening. Photographed by Pat Durmon in 2020.

Books by Pat Durmon


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