Apnea: The Wake Sleeps

By Peter Halstead

Ay, many flowering islands lie
In the waters of wide Agony...
  —from “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills”
                           by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Isles of wide-eyed bowers
Heap mists and tides on me,
And flights of reefing powers
Sweep the strake;
But sleep, flown floundering
From oceans of debris,
Keeps me from the landing’s
Brilliant wake.


Some people sleep with their eyes wide open, maybe the better to see dreams. Dreams sleep when the sleeper wakes. Sleep keeps us from waking sights, but waking keeps us from sleep and its brilliant insight, oceans of the unconscious. Waking keeps us from awakening. We need to touch angels, as Rudolf Steiner and Saul Bellow tell us, which we can only do in deep levels of sleep. Herakles lifted Antaios off the ground, depriving him of contact with Earth, thus defeating him. To gain the world, we need to touch the land.

Sleep sweeps the bow, the gunwale, the hull with the debris of dreams, those maddeningly sluggish pea soups, swirling fogs, morasses of molasses, goals that recede as we approach, trains that remain uncatchable, stacked books forever unread, girls unkissed, high meadows and distant islands just beyond our reach.

November 30th, 2006