About the poet
Lorna Goodison is one of the finest Caribbean poets of her generation and lauded as such by...
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.