The Night's Insomnia

by Jen Lush

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1.
Poem: turn it off listen to the cicadas listen to that knock of branches listen just to the wind- here it is, rolling now like a pitching wave into the trees erasing the crazed and cross-tracked footprints of static in what you took for silence listen to the dry wood catching, at this perfect moment, in the stove stop, and you’ll hear it; the stretch and crack and tick of the thin metal flue expanding in the heat Oh, you are beaten so thin and still the joins hold, still that bloom of warmth opening up more than enough and your hands still feeling the shape of the kindling, the axe, the tree; the flexing of your own bird-fine bones.
2.
Poem: If the night is long and there can be no sleep, if the lullaby is nowhere in your heart, if morning comes to its new day exhausted, if all your novels strike wrong tones, if your waking dream is always of oblivion, if those cold coins of regret buy nothing now, and some high court sits in sleepless confusion, if the night is the one who won’t leave you, close your eyes and put your head just here where my own poor heart has learned that the night, poor night, wide-eyed and blind, must cling to you its only companion
3.
Poem: girls scatter from the hall beetles smoked from their nest the sun is a black seed in a blood orange the male teachers gone the women shooing us out as I reach the path the fringes of the oval combust and all the safety buckles of the world burn off me I am walking in my hat my gloves my blazer through the hearth of my own fear, my breath jagged with woodsmoke and sweat my small arm pinioned under a bag of first-day books on creek road one whole verge is on fire, fire that dad sets in the hearth of the living room or for cracker night bonfire marshmallows and singing how can the sky the road be fire the air this wind catches me like a demon’s hand I am running but gaining no ground his black fingers clasping around my legs my bag dragging like iron jaws on the bone-bright wing of an angel up the road I see my yellow house like a vision please I have to get home my cry sucked into cinders I am Gretel in the oven retching scratching the glass my house his hands my matchstick legs my hat my gloves my blazer
4.
Poem: Mallets pound fence posts in tune with the rifles to mask massacre sites Cattle will graze sheep hooves will scatter children’s bones Wildflowers will not grow where the bone powder lies
5.
Poem: Twelve days you’ve been away. Last night I couldn’t sleep for thinking about things undone, wrote notes in the dark as if you’d never left, fooling no one. Some time around two or three I heard our neighbour climbing the stairs next door and falling heavily into bed, then muffled voices. I don’t know what they said. Much later it seemed to me I heard the stars clamber to their places, clouds rustle loudly as they passed later still the Moon saying something about the Earth, the wind asking the trees where you had gone.
6.
Poem: sometimes it’s like a low tide & the objects on my desk are left stranded around me as I gaze out the office window looking for something outside of me to fill the emptiness it might begin the next morning with a small exchange in the coffee shop where we create shared meaning around an experience even if it was only reality tv & soon there’s a density to things and the collective flow slowly lifts until I find myself in a pub laughing over after work drinks while above us in a window in the corner of the room I see them crashing against the edge of this desperate to get in but we can’t hear them above the background noise I see their children drowning but don’t mention this as we wave goodbye & take our separate journeys home.
7.
Poem: The sea is a boat on his dream. The darkness at the shore embraces It’s journey to a new land. His visa is only a wave without a name. Baxter, desert of long sentences Locked up his youth. Now his eyes are broken wings. Now his heart is a cloud in a cage at the detention centre. He knew where he was in that white room. He crashed his dream with a native tree in Glenside’s hospital. His mind is a wounded hope for all within the wire desert Within the white room. His mind is a bird without air or sky to fly. Please let him be a bird in this land.
8.
Poem: Shade is a kind of writing, as well as a kind of light. It passes across the ceiling well after sundown. A bird lands on the roof, making that racket again which spooked everyone last week. Something crosses our path from the back of the house. We’d feel uneasy if we weren’t so tired. I swallow water mixed with a solution of mineral grit, as though it’s a cure. As I tip away dregs, the colder night pours more water from an ugly tap onto my wrist. The window is still open and shadows blow in like diesel and roses. The bird takes off, clattering as it goes. Then a louder silence roars around the moon. Will it rain? The shade is full of itself and nothing. The tap still drips. I get up an hour later to turn it off. The ceiling is clear. There’s an owl somewhere near and a goods train on the other line. It’s scary when it’s calm. Where do you put morning?
9.
Poem: there are no people for me I live entirely for myself in this perfect prison of freedom at night in the winter I talk to myself remembering the past about myself the world within is all I have I squeeze it until I myself come out in myriad forms fainting with freedom
10.
Poem: the moon looks as sad as a panda if this is the freight that comes with love bring on the reckoning, let it be without words I am wasting my talent on this, harbouring all I can against good advice, let us slip away into the dunes I will shine the torch on the whorls of your fingers swear such exuberant vows, like teenagers we could hoard our secrets, pin a hot fence around our hearts or imprison ourselves in a prison tree that grows the longer we refuse to confess, tonight the blues hammer the flowers, bring the whistlers down did the greats ever smoke as much as this who will be your lover now
11.
Poem: Don’t kill yourself but the hours instead when confronted by naked emptiness, better think out the minutes, keep your head. Time has more value than the tears you shed, for all they seem equal in weightlessness. Don’t kill yourself but the hours instead. Even friends who regard each step you tread Say, ‘Eyes straight, hon, to get over the mess, Better think out the minutes, keep your head.’ Plan them, from sun salute to wakeful bed, in case you succumb to regret’s caress. Don’t kill yourself but the hours instead. Though fine-boned schedules can’t revive what’s dead or repair fraying love, again I stress, Better think out the minutes, keep your head. Oh yes, down that last path I’ve been misled And found this remedy for heart’s excess: Don’t kill yourself but the hours instead Better think out the minutes, keep your head.
12.
Poem: I will not close I will not let so much as one petal curl as long as this light can reach me so long as the clear rain falls still I soak up the song of the world what does it mean to own each day of desolation? it means letting the soft words of a hundred birds fly into you arrows finding flesh still letting the one sun make you and in these times of burning find your fire it means letting the new leaves of each other find an opening in you though your ribs sing in the wind and your heart clangs without its cage bright red like any target though at times you are thin and waning pushing through each new day’s gravity hold wait expand put out your best blooms send your colours into the darkness do not pull back your life’s raw nerve.

about

Sometimes the night is like dark water.

These poets, their words and these songs evoke the feeling and space around the things that might keep us awake in the small hours. That place where the fight of thought comes in from the 
edges of everything.

Each of these poems are as varied as the poets themselves and the country they tread. All have held me awake when the night pours over and kept me thinking, wondering, humming or weeping. Riding along the jagged edges of ideas, emotions and points of view is a great place to be.

Jen Lush

credits

released April 21, 2017

Jen Lush

Music composition and vocals.

Chris Parkinson

Electric & acoustic guitars, bass guitar, vocal harmonies.

Richard Coates

Accordion, keys, iPad.

Produced, recorded, engineered and mixed by Chris Parkinson at My Sweet Mule — A MSM Production. Mastered by Mick Wordley at Mixmasters Productions.
 Photography, art direction & design by Tobin Lush at rodeo.com.co

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about

Jen Lush Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide-based singer/songwriter Jen Lush has transformed poems by 12 of Australia’s most respected contemporary poets into songs for her debut solo album, The Night’s Insomnia. Lush is best known for her work with folk-pop band Cat Dog Bird and electronic experimentalists Suvome, and her diverse musical background coalesces on The Night’s Insomnia. ... more

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