Little Night Terrors

By Cathy Bryant



While I sleep, they pull out my lashes
and push them into my eyes.
They yank at my face, sagging it,
making it sad and baggy;
they stiffen my limbs as close to death
as they dare, and try for the heart,
but its drumming keeps them off
so far.

Next, as I lie half-awake, they sit in my ears
and kick their heels on the lobes in glee
as they tell me of all my tasks
badly done or not done, chances missed or muffed.
They remind me of angers and grudges,
decades old and as relevant really as crinolines,
and set them to pinch and constrict
through the wizened hours.

I am welcomed to full insomnia.
What woke you? they ask, then fall about
laughing. Was it someone breaking in?
That shadow, is it a grim-faced man,
mouth a hard line, creeping towards you
holding a knife he bought
with your death in mind?

You can’t do anything, they say, stern with morals.
You’d disturb everyone else. Keep still.
They make odd creaks and nearby sighs
as if the house is alive and unhappy.
They are most joyful when I lie motionless
as they put sand and illogic into my eyes
and the dreariness of fear on my body,
so I can’t focus on a book,
a book that in six hours time
will be as warm as fresh toast
and as easy and comfortable as the chair
I’ll sit in to read it.

They have me through the sickly pink dawn,
after the false white one through which the birds
shrieked endless gossip and laughter.
They have me. And one morning
there will be no breakfast, no book;
one day I will not escape from them.



Cathy Bryant has won 27 literary awards and writing contests, including the Wergle Flomp Humorous Poetry Contest, the Balticon SF Poetry Contest, and the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, and she has blogged for the Huffington Post. Cathy’s work has been published all over the world in such publications as Eye to the Telescope,The Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Futuredaze. She co-edited the anthologies Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1, 2 and 3 and has had two books of poetry published: Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature (Puppywolf, 2010) and Look at All the Women (Mother’s Milk, 2014). See Cathy’s listings for cash-strapped writers at


Featured image via TheDigitalArtist, Pixabay, CCO