A Journal of The Plague Year, And Other Tales

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Can't You Sleep

Can’t You Sleep?

Can’t you sleep?

Then count sheep –

Us commonplace, uniform specks of life

Clinging to hillsides and crawling across valley floors.

Count the miles we took to reach here.

Following the light of the sun we left our old world,

Scampering with stiff-legged steps

Off that dried-through, chewed-thin, good-riddance steppe.

Harried by wolves and tribes behind us –

Huns, Bulgars, Parthians, Turks –

We out-trod them.

Others took us across narrow seas

And set us down in this haven of water meadows and fallow fields;

This river-veined, flood-fed, lush-leafed new-found-land.

Can’t you sleep, still?

Then count the bales of wool sheared from our flanks,

Ever since Man saw it paid to card, comb and spin our fleece into fibre

To feed foreign markets.

Count the value of this white gold

Swapped for marks at merchants’ fairs

In guttural-sounding, Plattdeutsche towns –

Antwerp, Ghent and Aix.

It paid for your Gothic churches and your Gothic wars.

Now the soaring spires, shining knights

and steadfast archers we earnt for you

are set down like point work in the tapestry of this island’s life,

as sheep standing dotted across your patchwork fields.

Count us all, for all that we are,

And then, at long last, sleep.

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