Pippa Chapman's 'Insomnia'


worst, the potassium flashes;
electric questions crackle;
numbered doubts on tickets, in chest-press black,
Progress Papers for this pilgrim to solve before the bell;
the invigilator’s foot-steps will stop.

It’s the shutting out, short-circuiting news,
the haunt of a child, a worm in his eye,
this hollow-pot-bellied bone china boy

There’s the shutting out closer to home;
the lark on the road, legs broken,
he needed a truck, but his wings reached up;
it’s letters and numbers; my hanging head,
my dread; the grey, the red painted black.  

It’s the pushing it back
to before, then behind,
the mad scramble, to panic-fill gaps

And, all night,
all night, there’s a regular twist of a chalk-rock back,
heavying  bone, scalding marrow, calves,
calves, and joints red-wired.

It’s the shutting it out;
the need to shove SHOUT out,
to wake up my world,
but I can’t.
There are chains,
spies still alive
and axes

*Pippa Chapman has attended Helen Ivory’s class in Norwich for two years and Moniza Alvi’s workshops for a year. During the long search for her hidden family history she started to use poetry to express and cope with emotion.  She found her imagination in Helen’s handbag one morning at Dragon Hall.


  1. Anonymous

    I enjoyed the poem.The title immediately caught my attention because I slept very poorly last night.
    These are very effective lines –
    all night, there’s a regular twist of a chalk-rock back,
    heavying bone, scalding marrow, calves,
    calves, and joints red-wired.
    Thanks. And I love where you found your imagination 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    thank you for that – much appreciated especially as it is my first.
    sleep well

  3. Anonymous

    Great poem and reflects some of my insomnia experience. I agree with the idea insomnia is a state of mind. That leads to recovery coming from a change of focus and mental conditioning rather than a quick resort to drugs . Drugs in the long term can only make insomnia worse. Insomnia Treatment should be about changing routine and behaviour.

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