Memories of Vigils by Rob Cullen

Listening to Rachmaninov’s Vespers at Christmas

brought you back into my thoughts from those days

You were fifteen and expecting your first child.


And you were too frightened to fall asleep

So I sat up 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 Manhattan night views,

Of exploring the walkways and hidden stairs and floors

Of Grand Central Station 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 do. 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.

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