The Sandman



    Quiet: the poet is taking the stage.
    (Well, it’s not a stage, but a circle of bookshop carpet:
    Shush, we won’t quibble.)
    (As we said, we’ll go with it,
    And anyway, female seems likely –
    Can you see her now,
    Her red lipstick, dangly earrings and brocade pumps?) –
    Stands, sways,
    Says all her poems are about things that
    Really happened,
    That the abstract smudge of the soft-bound book
    Really represents her,
    Says she’ll read an eerie poem called ‘The Sandman’ –
    (Whose terrible voice is this?)
    About her insomnia –
    (Practically a given for a poet, you sneer)
    And she begins with a clipped voice
    About Sandman’s cruelty in her bed
    About the piquancy of their shared sheets
    About the skeleton finger of a voyeuristic moon
    Who watches as they turn away from each other,
    And the audience shift, sigh,
    Steal a stealthy glance at the gilt clock;
    A soft-soled shoe shuffles
    And the poem is coming to an end –
    (Her voice is harder, and, if you can’t hear it,
    You can see there are seven lines left on the page).
    But it is a surprising end
    For she is both players in the poem,
    And a man laughs
    For she is speaking to you,
    Through you,
    Is you:

    Whose terrible voice is this?

    Holly Howitt is a writer and lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, where she leads the MA in Creative Writing. She has written a novella, a collection of micro fictions, and has edited several micro fiction and prose poetry anthologies. She has just completed a new literary novel, Beyond the Moon, and is finishing a collection of poetry.