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
Was sick or
As I drove past
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.
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