Sleep comes to me no longer,
I huddle by the steaming samovar listening
to the hush of night as its shadow falls
across the land.
The nights are endless —
friend to fugitive and hunter alike,
the darkness not just a cover to sleep under
but a shadowy world where enemies lurk
and spies eavesdrop outside the door –
while I write furtively into the night
straining under the weak light of a bare bulb.
Sometimes a poem doesn’t last the night
as I cast it into the fire at the sound
of an unknown footstep.
And I think – what has my world come to?
Why is the earth thirsting for the blood
of her children — and I — alone in these nights
a pen for company,
calling out for sleep to come to me,
I who am called a nun and a whore
who welcomes every morning with open arms,
I will not run from this, my only love.
~ Saskia Handley
Saskia Handley was born in Sierra Leone, educated in England and has lived most of her life in Greece. She co-edited the poetry journal Poetry Greece, and has translated ‘Gentle Hour’ by Maria Stamatis into English. She has had a poem on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘A Woman Poet’, and poems in Askew and North East Review.