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a charm for falling asleep by Penelope Shuttle

an extract from Evening Journals

first ten nights

of a moon

ten days of rain


duties, pleasures


washing my hair

in the dark

everything is easy

soon we’ll sleep


winding shadow-house

of Daedalus


from the painted walls


the rain


about a piano recital

given years ago

by Alfred Cortot


snow on the beehives

and little chilly churches

snow falling on the glebe wood


melon beds under glass at Heligan

a shift of torrential skies

lobster-blue sea

dusky cloud-rags

turtle-flesh-green cliffs

hivernage of last birdsong

wintering nouns

wakes of fade-light

hedges crack-willow

field horses in their canvas shawls


back come the pines

the child

the rivers of long ago


I’m worried

because a little cat

has gone into my house

and if one

why not more?


gusts of rain


shark-aura of the motorway

cobra-hiss of the artics powering through rain

I saw a girl in white

walking the central reservation



bulls on their hind legs

on a mountain path

a charm for falling asleep

a creased map showing us

sea levels

thousands of years ago


my hotel room

is carved out of rock

it has no door only a curtain

I don’t mind



a sack of Faberge eggs

a coat of rain

a box of old menus

rough ground

stars on a plate, fizzing


a seductive blue whale

lawful birds

the blind eye of pure life

a saltwater hood for his mother


ceilings at prayer

or wallowing about

like dolls


taking two doves

to Mrs Webb

on a harmless white-linen day


Penelope Shuttle has published twelve full collections, and her most recent publication is Father Lear, a pamphlet from Poetry Salzburg, June 2020. Her next publications are the

pamphlet Covid/Corvid, sonnets for the pandemic, in collaboration with Alyson Hallett,

out from Broken Sleep Books in November 2021, and Lyonesse, a full collection from

Bloodaxe Books in June 2021.


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