Poem introduction

In Roehampton, where I grew up, there were many pieces of public art. One that has stayed with me is a piece called The Watchers by Lynn Chadwick - Three huge bronze statues with block heads standing on three spindle-like legs each. These statues scared me and all my friends so much so that we referred to them as The Three Witches and stayed clear. I would pass them every day on my way to school I lived on top of a hill and at the bottom of the hill was my school so as I walked to school I would feel the statues staring down onto my back. When I first came across Walter De La Mare's The Listeners about the disembodied presence in a house, listening. I was reminded of this statue that is still in Roehampton, the three witches looking over their hill... watching!

The Watchers

The children felt the eyes

burning down into their backs.

They turned and saw three statues

down by the crossed tracks.

 

Their legs were thin and sharp,

their heads were bronze blocks.

The children grasped their courage,

took aim with dirt and rocks.

 

Stones clanged off the metal,

mud sucked the faceless grins.

The children kept-up their assault,

then heard a malefic din.

 

A droning from the statues,

a blade scrapes teeth in a jaw,

a sound so full of hatred that

the children dropped down to the floor.

 

They quivered as the snow fell

on this bone-October night

the statues gawped, sightless,

as the moon began to bright.

 

The children's knees were knocking,

tears juggling from their eyes

the statues kept up their stare,

eager for their prize.

 

One child ventured nearer

though fear told her to flee.

The statues' gazes deepened

each peered more hungrily.

 

She ventured a hand to feel

the bronze-black shining skin.

The statues tensed to the touch,

the girl felt her finger sting.

 

A smudge of red barely visible

amongst the metal and the mud.

The children fled, screaming

the girl sucked at the blood.

 

The statues on the crossed tracks

had hoped the children would linger.

They rippled as they savoured

the taste of that girl's finger.

 

The statues are always watching

from the tracks upon the hill

they sing for flesh and blood.

They're out there singing still.

 


from Overheard In A Tower Block (Otter-Barry Books, 2017), © Joseph Coelho  2017, used by permission of the author and  the publisher

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