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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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