Cold Shore [Free Verse]

Was it a lifetime ago,
or was it a dream?

I remember it being a 
long drive to a cold shore.

And I sat alone
on that shore,
and I sought a shark --
not out in the waters,
but within myself. 

Finding nothing,
I felt the thing to do
was to 
rattle in rhythm with
the twisted hustle of
pounding waves,

and I awoke, 
shivering under piercing
points of light
that somehow felt cold,
& 
made me feel cold -
deep inside.

Jacob’s Ladder [Free Verse]

I'm dripping into midnight --
my world has disappeared.

My eyes crack to light and life,
but I forgot to hear --
remembering, 
the silence is broken 
& I hear a rhythmic clack.

But I can't help but wonder,
where it is that I'm at?

I'm at the bottom of a wooden staircase,
too steep to be sound,
looking up until perspective
makes the case vanishingly thin.

Should I climb the staircase?

What else can I do?

Will I wake
half way up,
and find myself
in the blue?

The laws of dreams force my hand,
I can't stand paralyzed,
and I'm halfway to infinity
by means that I know not. 

And I'm thinking of the line from that 
children's prayer:
"If I should die before I 'wake,"
and I think:

"What the hell is wrong with parents?"
that's the thought upon which you're going
to leave with your child
to "go to sleep?"

And you're wondering why the 
kid is up all night?

Because dying in one's sleep
doesn't start to seem
like a fine prospect
until one is an octogenarian. 

And so I sleep...

Dreaming Evil Clowns [Spencerian Sonnet]

My lungs were burning as I ran through town,
and tried to escape the streets of cobbled stone
and he from whom I ran, that evil clown,
whose paint obscured a face I once had known,

but how could I know something that's unknown
and, thinking that, I knew it made no sense,
though I knew it true deep within my bones.

Then stirred by eyes so burning and intense,
I picked a pointy stick for my defense,
and chucked it at the creature's beastly heart.
I missed its heart by width of a ten-pence.
The clown, in turn, tossed it back like a dart.

Awaking to sharp pains in my frail chest,
the clown had slayed me, or so I guessed.

Dreams All the Way Down [Free Verse]

I awaken from a dream
within a dream,
and I'm still dreaming --

dreaming that I'm walking
with the others,
the others that I'm told
are all me,
walking in some vaguely familiar
exotic destination

Of course, I don't know I'm dreaming.

I did wake up after all,
but it turns out that

it's dreams all the way down.

BOOK REVIEW: Frank Pe’s Little Nemo by Frank Pé

Frank Pe's Little NemoFrank Pe’s Little Nemo by Frank Pé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

This is a comic strip character / concept redux of material created in the early 20th century by Winsor McCay. It features surreal scenes from the dreamworld of an imaginative and sleepy boy. The artwork of Frank Pé’s revisitation of Nemo’s dreams is stunningly beautiful and brilliantly creative. But…

I would argue that it’s not a good children’s book for two reasons. First, there are a few panels that are likely to prompt questions / conversations that most parents probably don’t want to deal with during story-time. In particular, there’s some prominent cigarette and smoking imagery. It does contribute to the book’s retro feel. When the original strip came out in 1905, there was probably lots of smoking in it (maybe even some product placement advertising by tobacco companies,) but by today’s standards it’s conspicuous and controversial. I won’t get into the few other questionable frames, but they exist. (Though most of it is perfectly kid-friendly.)

Second, there is a segment or two that use vocabulary that will send many parents to the dictionary just to be able to decipher the speaker’s comments for their child. This is a shame because it’s not this way throughout the book. As with the questionable art, most of the book is perfectly manageable as a children’s book. I’m not sure whether Pé was seeking to be true to the original, or whether he thought it was fitting for a children’s book, but with relatively few edits I think it would be much more suitable for children.

For adults who are interested comic strips (historically or artistically,) I’d highly recommend this book. For those considering it as a book for a child, I’d consider whether some grandiloquent vocabulary and a provocative frame or two are troubling, and decide accordingly.

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Dream Door [Triolet]

I dreamt the door looked out upon treetops
and I could walk out on blue sky and cloud
and see the world as would a tall cyclops.
I dreamt the door looked out upon treetops,
but in my dream I plunged into the copse.
Sky walking proved more dream than was allowed.
I dreamt the door looked out upon treetops,
but could I walk out to blue sky and cloud?

POEM: Sleep [PoMo Day 8 – Rondeau Tercet]

In haunted hours, I wilt to sleep,
and know that I'll be cursed in dreams.
I'll drift upon Stygian streams
at speeds between trickle and creep,
listening for some distant screams.

In haunted hours, I wilt to sleep,
and know that I'll be cursed in dreams
trapped down below the castle keep,
until the King should come to deem
me worthy of some healing dreams.

In haunted hours, I wilt to sleep,
and know that I'll be cursed with dreams,
drifting upon Stygian streams.

BOOK REVIEW: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and DreamsWhy We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

 

For a long time, the questions of why we sleep and dream remained unanswered — or answered speculatively in ways that proved without merit. One presumes the reasons are potent because there seems to be little evolutionary advantage in spending a third of one’s life unconscious of one’s environs and paralyzed (literally in REM sleep, but for all intents and purposes in NREM sleep as one can’t respond to changes in the environment without some part of one’s brain taking note of said changes.) The good news is that Matthew Walker’s book offers insight into what scientists have learned about why we sleep, why we dream, why we become so dysfunctional without doing both, and what it is about modern life and its technologies that has created an apparent crisis of sleep loss. Walker goes beyond the science to discuss what individuals and institutions can do to reduce the harmful effects of sleep deprivation.

The downside of this book is that it’s a bit alarmist, and in contrast to many books of this nature one doesn’t get a good indication of the quality of studies reported. Some pretty brazen claims are made and the reader doesn’t necessarily know if they are preliminary and unvalidated or if they are well established. Here, I’m speaking about the studies that try to isolate out the effect of sleep loss versus all other factors (which is a notoriously messy affair,) and not so much studies that report on the physiological effects of sleep and sleep loss (which I see less reason to not take at face value.) At any rate, any reader who doesn’t fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow and sleep straight through 7 hours and fifty-five minutes — waking 5 minutes before the alarm — is likely to feel doomed if they take this book too seriously. And if you ever engaged in shift-work (as I have) or had an intense travel schedule, you are likely to feel that your life is permanently and irretrievably wrecked.

I know this is a book on sleep, but I think it went a little too far in marginalizing all other elements of health and well-being. Walker said that he used to tell people that sleep, nutrition, and exercise were the trifecta of good health, but he ultimately concluded that sleep was more important because diet and exercise were adversely impacted by sleep loss. I don’t disagree that diet and exercise are harmed by sleep loss, but – of course – sleep quality is harmed by lack of proper diet and exercise as well. The author later discusses research confirming this two-way street. I, therefore, have no idea why he changed his initial balanced and reasonable view with one that suggests sleep is the 800-pound gorilla of health and well-being.

The book’s 16 chapters are divided into four parts. Part I (Ch. 1 – 5) lays out what sleep is, how rhythms of sleep are established / disrupted, how much sleep one needs, and how one’s sleep needs change throughout the course of one’s life. Part II (Ch. 6 – 8) explores the benefits of sleeping as well as describing the nature of the damage caused by lack of sufficient sleep. Part III (Ch. 9 – 11) shifts the focus to dreams, and delves into what they appear to do for us. The final part (Ch. 12 – 16) investigates the many ways in which modern life disrupts sleep from blue light in LED’s to arbitrary school and work schedules to cures that are worse than the ill (i.e. sleeping pills.)

There is an appendix that summarizes twelve key changes that an individual can make to get more and better sleep. There are graphics throughout the book, mostly line-drawn graphs to provide visual clarity of the ideas under discussion.

I found this book interesting and informative. I would recommend it for anyone interested in the science of sleep or how they might sleep better, with the exception of anyone who has anxiety about the state of his or her health and well-being. While I understand that Dr. Walker wants to drive changes regarding views and policies that have been wrong-headed or deleterious regarding sleep, I feel he went too far toward suggesting the sky is falling for anyone who gets less than a perfect night’s sleep every night of his life.

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POEM: Faceless

the faceless, in my dreams, play at chores i can’t comprehend,

leaning over consoles  — big powerplant-style consoles,

neither typing nor jabbing buttons,

just sitting, attuned to the lay of the world according to indicator lights

i shout to them

of course, they can’t shout back

but they don’t even flinch

zero acknowledgement

i can’t tell if they have ear-holes,

whether they’re ignoring me, or can’t hear me

i guess i should consider myself lucky

if one turned its faceless face toward me

i’m sure i’d shit a dream brick