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By Lorine Niedecker

What horror to awake at night

and in the dimness see the light.

               Time is white

               mosquitoes bite

I’ve spent my life on nothing.


The thought that stings. How are you, Nothing,

sitting around with Something’s wife.

               Buzz and burn

               is all I learn

I’ve spent my life on nothing.   


I’m pillowed and padded, pale and puffing

lifting household stuffing—

               carpets, dishes

               benches, fishes

I’ve spent my life in nothing.


Lorine Niedecker, “[What horror to awake at night]” from Collected Works, edited by Jenny Penberthy, Copyright © 2002 Regents of the University of California. Published by University of California Press.

Source: Collected Works (University of California Press, 2004)

  • Living
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Lorine Niedecker
Niedecker was born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and lived in this wilderness area for most of her life. She lived a quiet life far removed from the professional poetry world, where she wrote hundreds of poems remarkable for their loving observation of nature and delicate musicality. Ever increasing in popularity, her finely-honed verse speaks to readers in a delightful, distinctive voice. See More By This Poet

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