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April 01st 2009 print

Patrick Walsh

Sleep, Walker

As a boy I’d fall asleep with my stomach to the bed,

An arm and opposite leg pitched at right angles, my head

Turned to face my hand and hidden underneath a pillow.

A full-time infantryman in those days, I was training—

And didn’t mind the gentle way my weight was dispersed, although

I held that position long after my neck was straining.

I’d hear the whoosh of footsteps in tall grass, a loping stride

Relayed through the mattress, floorboards, and from the other side

Of the earth: I had awakened it again, some dread beast

Who had fixed the place I slept, though it would take years at least …

Older, I understood the sound of steps I used to fear

Was my pulse. And, older still, I know that thud in my ear

Is the enemy, just a boy with a simple order,

And me walking out, unarmed, to accept his surrender.