Thursday, November 17, 2005

20. THE SLEEPWALKER - Greg Kuzma

He is at the very tip of the edge of the top step
and now he takes the first step

down through the tall ferns of the burgundy
carpets, hanging on tight as he can to the burgundy

bannister, one hand held out, you know, like the monster
you see on the late late show, but the other, unlike the monster,

gripping the bannister tight because, of course, he is a man
and not something driven by strange forces, which a man

cannot understand and which cause fear. It is simply
a case of a sleepwalker. After a few hours the body simply

rises, looking for nothing in particular; it thinks
it is in the library, the birds blowing in the window, it thinks

it wants to be in the study, writing with the orange pencils,
and so it goes there, or perhaps it is leaving now with the pencils

and is going into the kitchen. Sometimes the fantasy
is less ordered, the walker tumbles, believes he is in a fantasy

even —such knowledge is possible—and this brings on
the helplessness; but usually childhood returns; on

a warm beach late at night, the walker stands stained
with the tears of a young girl; trembling, rain-stained,

he stumbles back up the road to a campfire, in front of which
two old people sit, toward which

he does not want to go. His heart is all summer,
and he wants it to keep on staying summer

so that his mouth shapes again another adjective.
When we wake him sometimes he clings to this adjective

and will not see the orange juice, or the sweatered family
kneeling near him. Perhaps he in one who has no family.

The danger is that he will fall downstairs, or lapse
in his mind into something which becomes, through the lapse

of consciousness, his reality. This is the real danger
of a sleepwalker, although there is one other danger —

that in going wherever he goes he improves the arrangement
so that he will prefer always to be walking in the arrangement

free of the stairs he walks daily, which lead nowhere,
or the smooth surfaces of other peoples’ lives, which lead nowhere,

but his must be risked. You must let him go his way
for the first few weeks, in case he discovers along the way

something better than we have. This is why perhaps in the past
these types were always held in awe; in the past

people looked for messiahs in unusual conduct, the children
of sleepwalkers watched carefully for years, until these children

themselves some night go out onto the terrace and walk
themselves dead against a tree. Who is to say if such a walk

is not valid as sleeping all night tormented by guilt,
or living the day through aware of this guilt?