I must not fall asleep. I must not fall asleep.
Ut-napishtim, the immortal, says that if I do not fall asleep,
I will live forever, I will not die like Enkidu.
I sat by his body until a worm dropped out the nose.
It was repulsive, I leaped up screaming,
the face I was kissing became a nest of worms.
I fled, and I’m fleeing till now. I am really tired,
But I must not fall asleep. I asked them all on the way:
should I also die? Renounce the sun? No, never.
It’s enough that I don’t fall asleep.
I know no nicer feeling, than when lying in bed
and I feel the weight on my eyes, the slight spinning in my head:
sleep is coming. I am very afraid. This weight and darkness, and spinning
are stronger than me, every evening. But not tonight.
There are ways, for example, putting my fingers in my eyes,
but I won’t sit for a week with my fingers in my eyes,
it’s unbearable, besides, I would look stupid,
after all, I am the ruler of Uruk. (Another week. Did I sleep,
sitting next to Enkidu’s body? At the time I was not yet
so terribly tired).
When I was taking the boat through the waters of death,
which must not be touched, an old game proved useful
from childhood, of the monster under the bed. Not even a toe
can poke out from the bed (as from the boat), for the monster will catch me
and drag me into the kingdom of death (super fun, right?).
I’d lie, under the covers, thinking: I’ll stick out my toe, for a moment,
I’ll check if it’s actually there. And if it catches me? Struggling
with my curiosity, I’d lie, until the weight on my eyes and the darkness
made the fear and curiosity lose their power, and when it was
all over, then (if I’d only been awake) I’d be able to say—I’m already asleep.
Translated from the Polish by Maciej Mahler