African Sleeping Sickness

Over recent weeks I have spent dark days
Lethargically slumped
over my writing desk
I have been feeling dispirited and dull
My concentration has gone
and I am now prone
To frequent,
unpredictable mood changes

For days now I have felt indifferent
decidedly irritable and
if you so much as looks at me
I am likely to snarl viciously and
Aggressively demand to know
why, just because
I teach people how to write
Everyone expects me to be an accomplished writer

What could someone
With a banal daily life like mine
Possibly have to write
In verse or prose for that matter?
Of what consequence
Are my sporadic, deranged mutterings?
It has all been a façade, a masquerade
all done with smoke and mirrors

This proliferation, this sudden invasion of my organs
this debilitating infection of my brain has left me
suffering from a chronic, torpor
It is an effort even
to raise my pen
I am suffering from daytime insomnia
exhausted by periods of sleep-like unconsciousness
And fear I will slip into a deep coma
wither and die of sleeping sickness

Sleeping sickness?
First described in the fourteenth century
when Sultan Djata of the Kingdom of Melli
was stricken by a lethargy that killed him
Only methodical destruction
of the tsetse flies habitat
repelled the spread but now, centuries later
a fresh reservoir of blood lies unprotected

Only a vigilant mobile surveillance system
with specialized staff
using effective diagnostic tools and
improved field control strategies
Will repel this resurgence
control this vigorous strain of sleeping sickness
causing neurological impairment in
lonely writers and artists all over the world

I wrote this many years ago when I was summoning the courage to face each day with my husband who was battling bowel cancer. Over recent months the malaise has taken a grip and bought my creativity to a grinding halt.

Seeking regeneration.

10 thoughts on “African Sleeping Sickness

  1. Heather, I too recognise only too well what you talk of – try to nurture yourself and surround yourself with only those people and things which nourish you. Much love.

  2. Sue

    Heather, sit back, put your feet up and veg out. If you don’t you will end up being ill, which is nature’s way of making sure you get a rest. Do it the easy way.

  3. I go through a similar creative malaise every winter. This year I got it out of the way early for some reason. We arenot machines but as cyclical as the seasons. There must be die-back for there to be new growth. Take everyone’s advice and simply be nice to yourself and expect nothing from yourself. Fill the well!

  4. Sally

    I love the way Wild Cherry summed up the comments left by those that care about you. It’s good for all of us to remember.

    I can’t add anything…it’s already been said so beautifly by all. So I just add my voice to the words already left.

  5. here is how I cure myself of this sickness: I head to the nearest travel bureau aND collent every pamphlet in the case, then to the library to look up every scenic, historic or artistic location in my state, and lastly to a directory of every museum within 300 miles. Armed with maps I circle places of interest I would like to visit, like a nights stay at the Ken monastary. After due consideration GO>… Even if it is only a spa in your town. YOU ARE AN ARTIST, AND ALL ARTISTS NEED REFULING.

  6. About a year ago I found myself really sinking into that mental and creative fog where it is so hard to even focus on anything. Fortunately, I went to the doctor and mentioned sleep apnea as a possiblity for my years of insomnia, fog and fatique. I had a sleep study and was found to have really bad sleep apnea, was put on a C-pap for sleeping, and now it is one of my most prized possessions. I don’t know if this would help you, but it might be a possiblity to explore. I am energized, motivated and creative again. I feel as if I’ve flown above the clouds (which your poem expresses so well) that were blocking the sun.

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