“The Sleepwalker,” by Richard Wilbur

 

“The Sleepwalker.” Original Image Location.

Like an axe-head sunk in a stump,
His face is wedged into the pillow’s dark,
The nose and mouth scarcely breathing,
The mind without a picture.

But now a window shade
Floats inward, to admit the ashen moonlight,
Hovers, and then in haste falls back
To crash against the screen.

In a room like this, a harrowing
Dream takes shape, although he can’t yet tell
Whether abductors keep him here
Or foes without besiege him.

Afoot now in that dream,
He moves through half-familiar shapes, through shapes
Made vague as if by attic-dust
Or oxides undersea,

Until a doorknob’s glint
Alerts him, and the opening door reveals
Obsidian gloom from which emerge
Eight shoe-tips in a row.

Shutting the door against
That bodiless surveillance, he begins
To waken, and his eyes to clear,
Conforming room to room

And shaking off the dream
For good, except that later on, in daylight,
Walking down street or corridor
Upon a clear-cut errand,

His mood will briefly yield
To an odd notion like an undertow,
A sense that he is mortally
Beset, and in need of ransom.
+VDMA

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