MM (1969 / Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, England)

Nightwatchman And Muse

I watch over the town like some lost angel
just beginning to grasp the significance of the task.
Where ever you are asleep, I hear the sounds of sleep-
walkers, sleep-talkers and sleep-junkies – too tired
to mutter more than the odd syllable about growing old,
reciting the names of ex-lovers and sweet-hearts
as though their litanies would bring back
the lost, the wounded, the deceased
for that one last conversation that would change everything.
They talk the honest talk of the subconscious mind
and we must congratulate them on their night babble
allowing as we do for the affairs of translation.
Never again will Jill tell Jack the truth – only in dreams.
And what of the truth, undependable as it is, changeable
as always by the way sunlight touches the hills and valleys.
My task is simply to watch and listen whilst
the last of the party-goers take themselves home
and the very last stragglers who have lost their sense
of what is right and wrong think their way
into the bedrooms of the handsome and the beautiful.
I do not seek to order the night, I hear the lonely
the sick, the maligned, the disparate voices
of a town groaning under the weight of its own contradictions –
I offer calm in the long hours when no other voice
but the stranger’s voice on the phone will do.

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