The Sleeping Traveler
We are trying to leave the nation that has as its navel the victory of the stairs. The ferry from
Roscoff to Portsmouth is difficult to enter. Each night we leave the Hotel Angleterre and ride to the
ferry station to see if there is space for us. It is a night voyage. On our third try, we succeed. One
thirty in the morning, we ride our bicycles amid walking people and cautious autos down the ramp.
The hold of the ferry is open like jaws, we are skimming slowly over the dark, hallucinatingly weary,
I see the ship is thirsty and we its drink. Once on the ferry that is to take us over the night and the
channel, because there are not enough seats for everyone, we sleep in a passageway full of doors that
thankfully no one opens.
The stoa is where visitors slept, a roofed colonnade on the western hill. What remains is a long,
narrow rectangular pavement set high on a slope, the sea visible. It looks like nothing so much as
a runway. One early archaeologist mistook it for the main temple, so far is the journey from one end
from the other.
He was in some ways a good man and in some ways not; he was an articulated rictus of personality.
By picturing him traveling I can picture him gone. But traveling to where, into no horizon of inner
Canada or ocean can his disappearance be observed. Because it most resembles the nothing I believe
in, he fades into the dark of the cave. I have described the resembling memory below arena, its
empty, sieve-like comb of holes. Bocklin’s overdone Gothic version, white veil being ferried to a
small steep island hived with doors temples graves. In asphodel whose growing season never ends,
there are the flocks of undone. Their bodies flicker like laundry left to starve on the line for years,
translated beyond caring for us. Come back, gnostic snake, and terrify us with surprise. Better to
be terrified of you here than of this hole, this tunnel you’ve left open.
Amy England’s book of poems, The Flute Ship Castricum, is published by Tupelo Press, and a second book, Victory and Her Opposites: A Guide, is scheduled for release in 2004. Her poems have appeared in Fence, Germ, McSweeney’s, Indiana Review, American Letters and Commentary, and other journals. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.