Memories of Vigils
Listening to Rachmaninov’s Vespers at Christmas
brought you back into my thoughts from those days
when you were fifteen and expecting your first child.
And you were too frightened to fall asleep
so I sat with you and whiled away the night hours,
playing cards and telling you those old stories.
Night after night from December through to March
of what it was like to grow up in the village as a child
and as we talked the boys would slide into your room
Instead of prowling the streets and alleys like wolves
blowing their heads off with petrol, gas and glue,
and they listened too and laughed as I told you
Of places I’d been to and those Manhattans night views,
of exploring the walkways and hidden stairs and floors
of Grand Central Station New York in the early hours explorations
Of that quiet time before dawn when the night crew
sat around yawning or folded asleep at their desks.
The crazy stories of the village and old Digger Young
And his fight to get away from the awakening dead.
And the boys soon fell asleep on the floor but you
sat up wanting more of those childhood stories .
More of the kind that made you laugh you said.
And you told me your stories too, of North Wales
and the homes and what you had been through.
And you cried now and then. And asked do you
believe me? Do you believe what I’ve said they did?
And I told you I did. I believed you. You cried again.
And then you said quietly I think I can sleep now.
And then one night you looked at me and said
I must be bad for those men to treat me like that
In the way that they did. And you asked me
Do you think I’m bad? I mean really bad?
Is there a sign on my head that says about me
Anyone can do whatever they want with me.
I told you that there are bad men and yes
they do bad things and they did that to you.
But what they did didn’t make you bad at all.
It says more about them than it says about you.
And then you told your story over and over again
To the social workers, their managers and the police.
And they decided you and the rest were just lying
And through the nights that followed I listened
To your anger and the pain of feeling betrayed again
and again and again and again and again and again.
Years later you wrote a letter saying you remembered.