Round about midnight

by John Boland

Lights wink from houses up on Dalkey Hill,
the road below my window purrs with cars,
two drunks enact a loony vaudeville,
the moon is full, the sky’s agog with stars.

It seems like fun out there, but not to mind;
all round my reading lamp Stan Getz spatters
those soft-blown notes that say the world is kind,
virtue’s its own reward, and nothing matters

beyond this sultry samba – such sweet thunder,
and so convincing in its breathy bliss
you’d never think that life could be asunder,
not just in here, where everything’s amiss,

but out there, too, for all that I can tell:
the purring from those cars might well be hate,
customised journeys to some private hell;
the house lights on the hill merely a late

doctor on call to a sweat-soaked bed;
that drunken vaudeville spinning to rage
behind closed doors, while a child, misled
from sleep, stumbles upon a ghastly stage.

It needn’t be like that, the jazz cajoles,
and those rhapsodic riffs almost persuade
that life is how we shape it, hearts and souls
swaying to a rhythm that will not be unmade.

And so we hunch beneath our lamps and wait:
good times will come, we say, someone will call
and tell us that it still isn’t too late
to stop the demons seeping through the wall.

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