Lorna Goodison

Image by Denis Valentine

Ode to the Watchman

As we exit from the old city before day
we sight the night watchman at his post,

evidence of his vigilance against nocturnal
furies red in his eyeballs. He did not bow

though, no, not him, it is right to thank him.
All praise to you O beneficent watchman

for keeping guard over us while we slept,
blessed be your eyelids which did not blink

even once in solidarity with those lowered
shutters, window blinds and jalousies.

You remained awake, ever alert, armed
with only your night-stick, rod and staff,

your aged, cross mongrel dog rampant
at your side, even as the smoke pennant

blown from your rough-cut filterless
hand-rolled cigarettes flew out full staff.

For pushing against that grease-stained
tarpaulin of despair and not allowing it

to befoul us during our needed night rest.
For keeping at bay restless rolling calves,

trampling down from those sleep hills,
busted old rusty chains rattling to shake

the firm resolve of small hearts, thanks
watchie for keeping them from breaking

and entering our little children's dreams.
And now kind watchman go home to rest,

you who did not seize and beat the beloved
as she roamed the streets, composing the Song

of Solomon. Go home now good watchman.
The last hot rush of caffeine pins that pricked

your blood awake has been rained from your
thermos flask, your break-back of night lunch

cast upon the keep-up fire in your belly. Cease
that anti-lullaby you keen to maintain wake,

the sun is here to take your place.

'Ode to the Watchman' from Controlling the Silver (University of Illinois Press, 2005),© Lorna Goodison 2005, used by permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.

Books by Lorna Goodison