Sleep & Wake

Albert Goldbarth

It’s so . . . what would the word be, mystical,poetical . . . to see your other—your spectral—bodyrise from you in sleep, like steamfrom a fresh baguette, and collect in the airin a shape that’s vaguely you, and float, aloneand unencumbered, through the zones of the night.Except . . . you’re not that special: every sleeperhas a spectral body. Come nighttime, it must bea traffic jam of spirits up there, jockeyingfor position, swerving, sometimes colliding,overlapping sometimes, you and the sherpa,you and the pinup beauty, you and the Nobel physicist. . . not unlike the way that ancient Egyptiansoften mingled the bonesof the case’s mummified occupant with the wing bonesof an ibis or the sternum of a temple dog . . .This is as good an explanationof some of our dreams as any.***When the spectral body returns, of coursethe spectral mind fits back inside the everyday,conscious brain, and then . . . thenwhat?—we don’t remember. Or we’re leftwith a tease of remembering. I thinkthe spectral ear extends, amoeba-like, to hearwhat’s far and muffled; and the spectral eyecan travel for hundreds of milesat the tip of a spectral nerve, on a similar quest.Somewhere, somebody is moaning in pleasure;just as, somewhere else, the lips give voiceto the whipped back or the amputated breast.The same with sight: the delightfultulip fields are down there; so is the napalmed hut.And which of these your ear and your eye electto retrieve says something, maybe something closeto everything, of who you are.***We wake, and . . . often a day is so large,is so imposingly vast, it’s better to lingerfor a while in the clouds of after-sleep than it isto stride out boldly. I can’t explain it clearerthan a statue in the Vatican,Sleeping Ariadne, that some experts suggestis the only classical marble statuewith eyelashes. That’s it:marble eyelashes. Every morning. That’sour unacknowledged courage:lifting marble eyelashes.

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Albert Goldbarth has been publishing books of note for over forty years, two of which have received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Recent collections are Selfish (poems) , The Loves and Wars of Relative Scale (poems), and The Adventures of Form and Content (essays). His life is lived entirely offline in Wichita, Kansas.

The Gettysburg Review

Summer 2018

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg College

Editor
Mark Drew

Managing Editor
Lauren Hohle

Founding Editor
Peter Stitt

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