Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"All You Who Sleep Tonight"

I wrote this the year after I graduated from college and got married.  My husband was a year behind me, so while he did his senior year of college, we lived on campus, and though I did have a full-time job, I got to participate in a lot of stuff at the college with my friends who hadn't graduated yet.  I still attended the writing group when I could, and took part in some events like "poetry jams" they hosted.  They let me compete even though I was no longer a student, and I won first place at one of them with this poem.

"All You Who Sleep Tonight"

All you who sleep tonight,
Full, cozy in your beds:
The world is full of ancient fright
That aches to creep inside your heads.

Beneath your sheets and blankets
You cuddle, dreaming dreams
Of childhood memories and pets
When someone sudden screams.

You bolt upright, eyes wide.
You search the darkness, scared.
The fear you feel so deep inside
Insists its fierceness can't be beared.

Aha!  Two eyes now glow
From somewhere near the door -- 
And from the darkness down below
Your bed, you hear a roar.

Your happy dreams have flown,
Your dolls and dogs forgot.
The fear that all the world has known
Seems here to hold you to this spot.

Another scream rips through
The air -- it sounds like Tom,
Your younger brother, yes, he who
Is favored most by Mom.

Those glowing eyes there at
The door, you recognize
As Jeeves, your Dad's old ugly cat,
Who slowly leaves amid the cries.

You scramble from your bed,
Ignoring Things below,
And run into your brother Fred,
Who falls and stubs his toe.

You disregard Fred's cries
When yet another scream
Shreds through your heart as poor Tom tries
To waken from his horrid dream.

Then opens up the door
That guards your parents' room,
And out upon the shadowed floor
Spills light that parts the gloom.

Your mom and dad appear,
They smile to you and Fred.
Then armed with sword and torch and spear,
They march to rescue Tom from bed.

With Jeeves and Fred beside,
You follow in the wake
Your parents leave as on they glide -- 
The shadows you forsake.

Then suddenly they stop
Just outside poor Tom's room.
They draw their swords, their sheathes they drop,
Then fiercely rush to challenge doom.

You wait in the cold hall
As battle then begins.
With Jeeves and Fred, you one and all
Hold breath to see who wins.

Abruptly, all noise stops.
Your parents reappear,
Their nightgowns splattered with the drops
Of blood from that which you did fear.

And there stands little Tom,
Not harmed by the attack,
And after a quick hug from Mom,
You all demand a snack.

So down the stairs you go
For milk and cookies warm,
But though you're safe now, yet you know
What terrors in your bedroom swarm.

Copyright Rachel (Ohlendorf) Kovaciny, 2003


  1. I don't know why but I was almost anticipating a different ending about 2/3 of the way through. It's quite beautiful and also whimsical at the same time. I love the cast named Jeeves. Great job and thanks for sharing!

    There are times that I almost wish I hadn't given up poetry. I could start again, but my thought has always been, why? If I don't have anyone to read it? That was one of the great things about college, all those peers with similar interests.

    1. I've always wanted to illustrate it with like Edward Gorey-esque pictures or something, turn it into a weird little picture book. Maybe one day.

      I have no idea anymore why I named the cat Jeeves. Possibly I'd just read my first P.G. Wodehouse.

      I think that built-in audience of college writer pals is what fed my poetry writing too. I've only written maybe a dozen poems since I left.

  2. I loved this and I don't even much like poetry. :) Very vivid and imaginative!

    1. Aww, thanks, Eva! I almost never tell long stories in verse like this, but it was a fun experiment that turned out well :-)

  3. I loved this and the imagery!!! Bravo!

    1. Thanks, Ashley! It was a ton of fun to write too :-)

  4. I love it! Excellent work, my friend. :)

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