Poetry and the Late Night Psyche



One year I planted shame. Thinking it small and useless,

like an old coin, Elizabeth’s patina green face a worthless value on the sidewalk,

I buried shame in a patch of soil out back. I wore gardeners gloves to keep my nails clean,

afraid the soil would form into dark half moons and expose my secrets.

I did not realize that shame could grow, like a child, like a plant,

like any sure creature it grew limbs. I’d hoped it would grow green like Elizabeth’s face,

become as forgotten as the copper thumbprints that once distinguished our country

but instead it bloomed and like clematis, it crawled into me.


Tonight the world feels strange and I can’t sleep. I feel as though I’ve not slept in years and though the exaggeration is extreme, my dreams as of late have become so frequent and so intense that I awake feeling exhausted. Nevertheless, when I turned to bed a few hours ago I could not banish the thoughts in my head. The persistence of words are like stubborn animals; it seems they only settle once indulged, once given a home on the page where they can mingle with other verbs and adverbs. Only then will they turn their backs on you, let you sleep. Tonight, these stubborn creatures forced my hand and thus the poem above was created in an attempt to sleep. The process of creation, especially at night, is an intriguing one. In many ways it feels private. It feels secretive and important. I don’t know why, it just does.

Some people consider themselves night people, others say they’re morning individuals. I used to say I was a morning person. Right now, however, I feel completely lost. I’m no longer a morning person but I’m not a night person either. I have no way of predicting when I’ll feel capable of completing work and with the amount of work I have to complete I’ve had to give up routine. It’s incredibly frustrating. It seems my lack of proper sleep is leaving me irritable and exhausted. So here I am, sometimes awake at 6:30 in the morning, other days awake and working at 1:00 am.What has become of me?

Regardless, the one pattern that has managed to stay with me is that I tend to have insights in the night and feel alert in the morning. My ideas generally come to me when it’s dark, form into beings that stalk me until I agree to hear them out. In the morning, however, I am a much better editor and, in general, a much better writer. Meanwhile, what I love most about the night is the silence. Solitude is generally an experience I adore and the sense of isolation is only magnified by darkness and silence. Perhaps it is due to this lack of stimulation and distraction that insights occur.


It is now morning and I am finishing this post, once again, exhausted and depleted after a night of intense dreams. This isn’t particularly new. I remember being a kid and associating sleep with nightmares. My mantra as a child, which I routinely told myself before bed, was: “don’t dream, don’t dream, don’t dream.” Eventually I developed sleep anxiety, meaning I became so stressed about not being able to sleep that in turn I couldn’t sleep because I was stressed. And so it goes, back and forth, back and forth, like a pendulum. But although I am frustrated to feel my energy wane on a daily basis, I am glad that, should I find myself tossing and turning, I can at least turn to my writing. In the night, I can at least write poems. I can at least make some sense of the world.


2 thoughts on “Poetry and the Late Night Psyche

  1. Anonymous says:

    I loved your poem and am in awe that you could create that out of a sleepless night. All of us have experienced shame, and your poem perfectly describes the dark feeling associated with the shame, especially in the silence of the night. You are a talented writer and poet.


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