Another night watch

when streetlights slice pale parallelograms
through the three-thirty mist.
The streets belong
to foxes and folk between shifts:
a world emptied
dead to itself.

I am
one small speck of wakeful life
in the starless, windless void.

The peril of the moment
holds me wide-eyed and wired
my heart and breath two bolting horses
straining for the front.

Long knives gleam.
Hot blood runs.
Old enmities flare.
The kingdom shudders to its roots.

The fool who clasps the empty crown
in sweaty, greedy hands
has murdered sleep
more surely and more finally
than the tyrant ever did.

4 thoughts on “Another night watch

  1. Indeed. This piece came out of some prose notes I jotted down several months ago now (I really was sitting up at 0330, unable to sleep) and while I wasn’t sure what to do with them, I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw them away. Recent events brought them to mind again and suddenly it all clicked. For me, the parallels between the dark deeds in Macbeth and Johnson’s malign coronation and anarchic misrule in Downing Street are inescapable: but how our contemporary tragedy ends is anyone’s guess! N.

  2. Just back from our annual camping trip in Brittany, where we flew a big EU flag on our pitch and spent a lot of time explaining to our delightful French and German neighbours that he-who-shall-not-be-named and his gang of reprobates don’t represent all of us over here! Fortunately, everyone was very understanding and sympathetic; but they’re every bit as baffled and frustrated as we are by what is (or isn’t) going on.

    Tell me, John: what is the correct response to current events for us as writers? I lurch between wanting to tackle our current travails head-on, and trying to distract myself by writing about anything but politics. The first frightens me, since I’m not really well-informed enough to add to the debate and I don’t want to simply rant and rage all the time; but the second feels as though I’m failing in my duty somehow, and risks coming across as a bit complacent and out of touch with reality. Any thoughts from a wise friend would be much appreciated. N.

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