The Last Hour of Sleep
by Naomi Jaffa
Format: Pamphlet, 32 pages,
Available (Published: December 2003)
The invigorating poems in The Last Hour of Sleep introduce a daughter, sister and woman awakening to her past and her present passions. With honesty and panache they celebrate the complexities of her sometimes difficult relationships with places, horses and people.
DON’T TAKE THIS PERSONALLY
but I might persuade myself
that I’d definitely still fancy you
rotten, if only you’d have
a good wash, perhaps slosh
a dash of Givenchy,
install a power shower even.
Then maybe we’d stand
an outside chance
of staying together
longer than an instant coffee
in the morning
which is already
looking much too far ahead.
Basically I’d really like it
if you were gone
now, out of my bed,
back to wherever it was
you said you lived.
Was it Highgate?
And I’d be very grateful
if you never showed up
at work on Monday
as the office equipment
salesman (who still looks
just like that actor)
who I lusted after
for the whole of last week
because of an Irish accent
and a name like Gabriel.
As far as I know he never even liked it here
but quite suddenly, after staying away almost nine years,
my father is back to visit me in Kerala, South India
— in the middle of night (as you’d expect) but also
during the afternoons around teatime, riding
the same airhorn-blasting hot and dusty trains.
And he seems to like to call especially before breakfast,
during that last hour of sleep in hotel bedrooms.
He looks about sixty, but to be truthful, to date him
accurately, I’d have to compare him with the photos.
Definitely he’s much happier.
Just the other morning he arrived, shorter
than me as usual, and swept me off my feet,
lifted me right off the ground and hugged me
for no reason. Put me down! I’m much too heavy.
Put me down! You’ll break. But he didn’t
and he doesn’t and my toes never touched
our old-gold, top-floor landing carpet.
He fills out his trousers again and his cheeks
are back to normal: fat, tanned, glistening and clean-shaven.
I kiss him and kiss him, inhale that mix
of Gillette foam and Floris’ Rose Geranium.
And all the time he dizzies me with smiles.
"Naomi Jaffa’s poems - intimate, sensuous, sensual - have the vivid texture of real life. Her bold use of the domestic, the ordinary, illuminates often disturbing or ambivalent emotion. She writes brilliantly about adolescence, a certain daddy’s girl rebelliousness. Here are nakedly and exuberantly female poems which conjure sexuality, memory, longing, grief and pack many a shock of emotion."
- Liz Lochhead
About the Author
Naomi Jaffa grew up in London and Scarborough. With family roots in Russia and Germany, her Jewish parents were both professional musicians. Since 1991 Naomi has lived in East Anglia, working initially as Suffolk’s Literature Development Worker. For the past five years she has been director of the annual international Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. This is her first collection.