The Somnambulist | Chloe Wilson


John Everett Millais, c. 1871


I have one life

and a half. I wake


in the bed’s centre

twisted up, snapping 


like an alligator. I wake

in the bathtub, I wake


on a hillside, I wake

with my face


in a cream-cake.

How to contend


with the evening’s mischief?

It’s always the same routine:


count my rings

and count my teeth


search the bed

and the clothes press


for anything which might

have slipped


back into the house

with me. My dimwit



hands me back to myself


in fragments. I draw

a twig from my hair, splinters


from my fingers.

Embers shuffle and huff.


Another fire she’s lit

at my expense. I wonder:


can I really be liable

if memory’s amanuensis


took no notice? 

I shudder


at the slow might

of the ocean’s report,


its hollow boom, the spray’s

splatter and clap.


My other inhabitant

is not so anxious. She steps


flush to the edge. She has

unwavering faith


in her balance.

Her sleep, my life,


must be so easy:

painless, dreamless.







Chloe Wilson is the author of two poetry collections, The Mermaid Problem and Not Fox Nor Axe, which was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. She received equal first prize in the 2016 Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize. 


















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