Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Night Watch' by Robyn Rowland

Night Watch

Time is elastic, its zenith fit to breaking
when you wait for the ambulance – now leaning over him,
now rushing back and forth from house to street straining
for sirens, night so dark and wet and quiet out there.

Listening for breath in a slight boy of fifteen years
is an ancient art requiring silence. Kneeling on your hall floor,
ear right to his lips, beside the frenzied shouts of his father,
whose panic of pacing is the only thing he can offer him.

Your own son watches his friend from the corner,
slumped, slightly beaten, the first fire of alcohol seeming
less necessary than it might have been, not worth the effort now,
while the friend he tried to carry home lies on his side, still.

Slapping his rump to try and wake him feels like assault.
Strange to be able to do things he would never allow,
ice you run across his cheeks a cruelty. Beyond limp,
he will not jerk away, open his mud-brown eyes.

When they finally come, wearied knights of the new wars,
they cannot rouse him, tell us it's not good, open his lids to pupils
so huge, so pitch and utterly void, his mother gasps, sinking,
and you never saw anyone so unconscious who wasn't dead.

You make your son sit and watch. They strap on an oxygen mask,
fail to open his mouth for a tongue block, quietly ask what he took -
vodka yes, but weed? pills? needles? No. Just vodka. Straight.
He was kicked,' your boy says, 'they punched me in the head.' And vomits.

Clipped on a stretcher, they lift him out of the hall. In the long night,
fourteen hours twisted in tubes before he rouses, you remember
they loved pizza by the swimming pool for the last three birthdays, watched
videos, Xbox, played Star Wars with Darth Vader the only enemy -

and when you turned sixteen no-one had parties at all.

Robyn lives in Ireland and Australia so she launched her new book Lines of Drift (Doire Press) both there and here. I caught the Aussie launch by Catherine Bateson at Collected Works here in Melbourne and invested in a book. I must say I liked the epic poem Unbroken Stone In A Stubborn Sea – but just too long for a blog I reckon. Again the scroll scroll scroll problem. But this mini-drama called Night Watch caught my attention. Such a shriek of a poem. Recollected in tranquility, as they say.



  1. Thanks so much Jennifer Compton.This is wonderful. I like this poem and also the Epic you mention which i hope follows the Richard Murphy tradition.It is the history of Inisbofin, a fishing island, that could be a history of Ireland itself. Warm thanks. Robyn Oh and the book is available at Collected Works Bookshop or postage FREE from Doire Press at http://www.doirepress.com/writers/k-z/robyn_rowland/

  2. Jennifer this is real 'edge of the seat' stuff. Found I was holding my breath through it. Fantastic drama in poetry.