Poem on Little Sleep

I walked into town naked
rode the bus naked
gave a public address naked
improperly ended conversations naked
in nightmare mornings caught trains
at chilly stations naked
bought croissants naked
sent emails naked
– they won’t guess –
enlisted male help
when I locked myself out naked
everyone must be so well-bred
to gaze down instead
pretend a cotton guard
defends the naked backs and legs
breaths down a neck exposed
although I take precautions
wrap round cloth printed with
distracting themes
an amulet against the demon gleam
of touchable flesh
but what shines through is
more touchable still
no cell involved nor nerve
but penetrating to the quick
there comes a sight that sometimes
takes a long-cut through
human perception
just to share the ride
defies the laws of physics
this eye needs no bundle of optic fibres
it’s connected in a million strands to
visions scattered in unseen lands
and seeing has no nationalist pride
seeing itself sees itself
seeing itself sees through all this
all these borders of dirt and cloth
needs no permission to raise veils
any more than we need to
ask ourselves for permission
to undress
any more than a hand would need
to ask permission right before
it grabs yours as the floor gives way
there are no rights to clamour for when all is almost lost
and when was anything
ever safe?
We protest our innocence naked
with guilt bruising our ribs
extol our brilliance naked
with doubt in weals on arms and hips
proclaim nobility naked
with weakness red on fingertips
notorious on our lips
perhaps our dignity’s eclipse
goes unseen to some eyes
but I know there is One who
sees right through it.

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