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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Worse Than Nightmares"

This poem is from the June 4, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by rix_scaedu.  It has been sponsored by technoshaman.  This poem belongs to the series Tripping into the Future, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.

Warning: This poem features sleep disturbances, survivor guilt, suicidal ideation, radical loss, and other touchy subjects.  It's also written in second person ("you").  Consider your mood before deciding whether to read on or skip this.

Worse Than Nightmares

Every night,
you go to sleep.

(You have tried staying awake.
It just makes matters worse.)

Every night you sleep,
and one of two things happens:
either you have nightmares,
or you don't.

This is the thing:
you are grateful  for the nightmares.

First of all, you deserve them.
You know that you do.
You dragged yourself
along with the targeted enemy ships
so far into the future that
nothing of either people now remains,
except for you and them.

Second of all,
the nightmares are real
and familiar and reliable.
They replay the scenes of battle
and the horrific trip through time.
This is what you have done,
and you hate it, 
but you can live with it.

Then there are the nights
when you don't  have nightmares,
when you have ordinary dreams instead.

This is when your
miserable wretched godforsaken lonely
mind replays memories of your life from before,
filled with laughter and smiling faces
and skin you could touch that touched you back,
bright ghosts of people you loved
who fell to dust and ashes
before the stars around you were born.

The good dreams
hurt you worse than the nightmares.

The good dreams
scare you more than the nightmares.

Because when you wake up,
you are

There is only Sasha,
its peculiar croon soothing
yet painfully different than a cat's purr,
rubbing against the length of your legs
and pressing a pointed snout
insistently under your chin.

On the whole of this planet
there is no mind but yours,
no voice but yours.
The antenna picks up signals
but they're gibberish to you ...
sometimes you listen anyway
just to reassure yourself
that you haven't gone
deaf to language.

The good dreams
are the ones
that make you wonder
if you have the strength
to go on living.

Those are the mornings when
you drag your aching body out of bed
telling yourself that
you deserve this too
not as any kind of grace

but as punishment.

* * *


Nightmares are a form of sleep disturbance commonly occurring with PTSD.

Survivor guilt often affects people who escape a terrible disaster when others do not.  Both traumatic guilt and PTSD raise the risk of suicidal ideation.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: June 9th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Sasha" is interesting. Character from other poems?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 9th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)


Sasha is a felinoid alien critter, actually introduced by DW user Chrodatesrock in the fanfic "Alone." Then I provided an origin in "A Leaf Falls," making the character canon. This series runs to comparisons of what is now and what was before: there are many things that serve the same purpose, but are different from what the protagonist grew up with, and that shear causes a lot of distress.
natf From: natf Date: June 11th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Been there although without the space travel.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 11th, 2013 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)


Ouch. That's not a good place to be.
4 comments or Leave a comment