Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter–even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

Analysis, meaning and summary of William Stafford's poem Waking at 3 a.m.


  1. marilyn mckinstry says:

    i often wake up at 3:00 a.m. too- the difference is my dog wakes up too and assures me that everything is fine.

  2. Pamela Otlowski says:

    Stafford had a way with the ordinary. This poem reminds me of feeling
    safe in a womb far away from the world at 3 a.m. I agree it is a beautiful poem that brings the reader to the same place as the author.

  3. Casey says:

    Beautiful poem, very moving. I feel like this often.

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