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DUNN, Douglas

The Night Window

The night rattles with nightmares.

Children cry in the close-packed houses,

A man rots in his snoring.

On quiet feet, policemen test doors.

Footsteps become people under streetlamps.

Drunks return from parties,

Sounding of empty bottles and old songs.

The young women come home,

The pleasure in them deafens me.

They trot like small horses

And disappear into white beds

At the edge of the night.

All windows open, this hot night,

And the sleepless, smoking in the dark,

Making small red light at their mouths,

Count the years of their marriages

On Roofs of Terry Street

Television aerials, Chinese characters

in the lower sky, wave gently in the smoke.

Nest-building sparrows peck at moss,

urban flora and fauna, soft, unscrupulous.

Rain drying on the slates shines sometimes.

A builder is repairing someone’s leaking roof.

He kneels upright to rest his back.

His trowel catches the light and becomes precious.

Men of Terry Street

They come in at night, leave in the early morning.

I hear their footsteps, the ticking of bicycle chains,

Sudden blasts of motorcycles, whimpering of vans.

Somehow I am either in bed, or the curtains are drawn.

This masculine invisibility makes gods of them,

A pantheon of bots and overalls.

But when you see them, home early from work

Or at their Sunday leisure, they are too tired

And bored to look long at comfortably.

It hurts to see their faces, too sad of too jovial.

They quicken their step at the smell of cooking,

They hold up their children and sing to them.