Sunday, June 19, 2005


I have a recurring experience I call night terror. I wake up with a quick jolt in the middle of the night--sometimes I swear it's because I heard something--and am suddenly slammed with terror in my gut. I find it difficult to breathe for a few minutes. Often I think someone has broken in and is going to hurt me in some undefined but terrible way. I have been experiencing this since I was quite young, although not all the time.

I was thinking about this and started to look for poems about fear. I found this one by Sara Teasdale over at PoemHunter, and I was struck with how well she describes night terror. In the end of the poem, it is all about fear of death. Teasdale doesn't hold anything back in this one.

What are you afraid of? What makes your heart pound and your breath shallow?


I am afraid, oh I am so afraid!
The cold black fear is clutching me to-night
As long ago when they would take the light
And leave the little child who would have prayed,
Frozen and sleepless at the thought of death.
My heart that beats too fast will rest too soon;
I shall not know if it be night or noon, --
Yet shall I struggle in the dark for breath?
Will no one fight the Terror for my sake,
The heavy darkness that no dawn will break?
How can they leave me in that dark alone,
Who loved the joy of light and warmth so much,
And thrilled so with the sense of sound and touch, --
How can they shut me underneath a stone?

Sara Teasdale


Mr Wang Says So said...

Chinese superstition says that a mischievous spirit is sitting on your chest.

I never knew till today that these spirits go for people in your part of the world too. ;)

Amy said...

That's fascinating, mr. wang. I never heard that before--a mischievous spirit. How do I get it to leave me alone? Is there someone I can hire to chase it off?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Don't get scared, ok. Read this.

SilverMoon said...

I immediately remembered this poem. It resonated with me when I was a teen. I've had sleeping difficulties at night for a long time. For me, the reason is not a mischievous spirit. I've written elsewhere why the terror grips me in a vise. I feel for you! ( A relaxing massage does work wonders for me. My husband's hands are magic.)

Amy said...

Silver Moon, you're right about the massage. Physical relaxation does seem to help ease mental tension. Sometimes I'll watch my dog sleeping, and that relaxes me, she's so peaceful.