Walking the Tock

Walking the tock



Two in the morning – new day soon dawning

Brutal bed yawning and I should be too

I’ve suppered the cat, read the twilight hour spam

Gargled the cocoa, hot milk and a dram.

My excuses have petered out into the night

Willie Winkie! come kiss me and tuck me up tight.


quarter past two and soon I must rise.

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies.


The bed is remorseless, the duvet reproachful,

Memories forceful of battles gone by.

Loath to set sail on the onerous odyssey

Tonight may be different – I’ll give it a try

Energies depleted –  already defeated

I get some sleep now or tomorrow… I… die…


twenty to three and soon I must rise.

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies


Did I charge up the phone? Did I put out the trash?

Did I freeze up the soup? Did I stash all the cash?

My fists are too hot and my feet are too cold.

Thrust under the pillow, wrap well in a fold

Darkly down billows, the heavy hours dragging

Vertebrae sagging, the mattress is slack

My fists for my head are too lumpy, too bumpy

I lie on my front and I lie on my back.


twenty past three and soon I must rise.

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies


Insomniac infant, four decades ago

My bed tugs at anchor, the waves gently rising

Mariners yelling, all raring to go

Terra incognita beyond the horizon

Friends and relations all race down the quay

My heart in my mouth, I watch them arrive.

“I’m coming! Don’t leave me!” each well-known face pants

My mother, my father, grandparents and aunts

And uncles and cousins and schoolmates and neighbours

Each leap safe on board helps to settle my mind

Another known face we will not leave behind

Counting your kinfolk, as a way to bring sleep

May not work, but is more fun than counting your sheep.


quarter to four and soon I must rise.

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies


Down through the ages the sleep-seeking people

Spelled out the long nights with their measure till morning

The town watch, the grandfather dongs, the church steeple

At sun-up the cock’s crow or wireless brought warning

The night’s chance had fled, chased by the dread dawning.

Napoleon, Franz Kafka and Marilyn Monroe,

Tallulah Bankhead and Vincent Van Gogh

They all knew this view of the early light seeping

Whilst around them their family and neighbours lay sleeping.


five minutes past four and soon I must rise.

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies.


I try out my left side, I try out my right

Whatever will black out the thoughts of the night.

The night long and dreary, the moon my one friend

My right side, my front, my back and my left.

Hypnos gets weary, slips off round the bend

Flits to fresh dreamlands and leaves me bereft

I wrap the quilt tightly, I let it go it slack

My left side, my right side, my front and my back.


quarter to five and soon I must rise.

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies


What’s that crack at the back of the ceiling, I wonder?

Will the rain and the frost break the plaster asunder?

Round by the cornicing, bars of light curl

Become tiger teeth, silently snarl

Each time a driver roars by on the highway.

Buses and drunks, juggernauts and junk,

Dormobiles dreaming on the sulphur-lit byways.

Poor souls want to sleep! – but must stare out unblinking

While I’m turning and burning and tossing and thinking.


twenty past six and soon I must rise

tomorrow is Monday – no hope of long lies.


Earth rushes relentless to face the corona

The blush over Russia and Greece steals a-creeping

The daisies are shutting across Arizona

Whilst around me my family and neighbours lie sleeping.

The flush through fenêtres of France comes a-pouring

Around me my family and neighbours lie snoring.


quarter-past seven and now I must rise.

the radio alarm grants no chance for long lies.


Dazed in the train with the wraithlike commuters

Spring sunshine office, I face the computer

The pixels are dancing their bright morning ring

The sleep gods come prancing, buzzards on the wing

The Sandman, Dream Angus hirpling past

Willie Winkie and Hypnos following fast.

Where were you, you rascals? when I begged for ease

Don’t pester me now, leave the stage, please.

My colleagues are cheery, they laugh and they chatter

Their talk jars my eyelids, my eardrums they batter;

My head nodding forward then back with a jerk

I painfully strive to mask slumber with work.


A new Monday morning before me is yawning

Dreams drift through the disk drive, flit through the files

The working day stretches for years and for miles

Every hour packed with fear that I’ll slump into slumber.

I’ll try make-believing I’m back in my bed

Around me the gambolling sheep without number

The lumpy old pillow is under my head

It’s quarter to two, three, four, all the fives

Tomorrow is Monday, no hope of long lies

If I think I’m tucked tight, then I’ll put up a fight

And with coffee can maybe win through this grim day.

Dauntlessly scorning the dreamscapes half-forming

I’ll hope for twelve hours to hold Hypnos at bay.

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