Midnight Watchman

Her own troubles are too much to bear

so she tells someone else

and when my troubles are too much to bear

I tell someone else

because your troubles are under your custody

you have total control

over who knows them

and who doesn't know.


when she tells me my troubles

she passes them on to me.

Now, I understand too.

I'm a second record of an essential but unpleasant document.

Now, should she ever need to remember,

I'm here

and I can back her up

and so she doesn't need to keep her troubles all together

in her mind,

and so she can let their primary copy

fade away

a bit.

But now

what do I do?

I've taken her troubles onto myself.

I can't forget

because then what would she do

with no primary copy

and a damaged and blurry secondary?

If she doesn't tend to her troubles

and keep them all corralled together,

one or two

might slip under the fence

in the night

and out into the wild confines

of her wider mind.

So they must always stay organized.

She cannot afford

to misplace even one.

I cannot pass her troubles on to someone else

because I am

her someone else.

Troubles watchman cannot swing down along a chain;

from person to person

by the transitive property:

I care about you,

and you care about her and she cares about him,

And to spare you your sleepless nights watching the moon rise over the barbed gate,

I'll take your troubles that you took from her

because you wanted to spare her

from what she took from him

to spare him.


I alone

am close enough to understand her

and care about her.

She says that her family is like a lion's den.

Food is not readily available

because no one cooks for her,

and she is vegan

and a teenager

and a student,

who lacks the time

to clean up after herself

every time she cooks for herself,

as is required.

She notices that she doesn't eat much,

comparing herself

to others.

Food is thrown into the den.

Scramble and fight

to eat.

She isn't a fighter,

but she is suddenly finding herself

fighting anyway.

Nothing like her cousin's household,

where they organize

their three meals a day.

Everyone believes in God,

and they all sit at a table

and say grace


What can I say?

I don't have this trouble.

I have others...


never before

have I been grateful

to be able

to leave dirty dishes in the sink

after spreading bread with peanut butter-

in a hurry, early in the morning-

and eat quickly

as I walk down the street.

I'm grateful

that she's letting me be her sentinel,

but her troubles will have to go.

I'm too busy

and too sad

to take on another's burden.


I install a camera above the fence

to give myself a break.

It's called poetry,

or a diary entry

or writing a letter

to my future self.

It's called getting my thoughts out of my head

and into a place where they won't be endangered,

by failing memory or human folly.

A lined page and an old blue pen with faded ink,

a screen and ten pushing fingers perched atop clicking keys,

have no thoughts,

no feelings

and make no mistakes.

They can keep everything indefinitely-

not forever,

but I won't need forever,

because people

are not forever.

Human memories wither

and fade.

A sentry in the night

will feel their head nod down

and their eyes close.

But a paper will never change

and a camera will stay awake.

Should I ever need to remember

each of the details

of my troubles,

I can pull back the swiveling chair

from the table

in the sentinel's dim, colorless office

and sit down before the ancient computer.

I can pull up a record from the depths of a database

or scroll through hours of grainy black-and-white footage

to find that one flicker of movement

showing which specific trouble

applies to me


I will only take

what I need,

and even that

I will let go

as soon as the need

has passed.

A camera can watch, from the barbed-wire topped gate,

for hours and hours on end.

It never needs a break,

never minds staying up all night

as the moon sets again

over that distant fence

far off at the horizon.

Words on a page

or flitting out between distant servers

can monitor my troubles,

and hers,

and his,

so that we

don't have to.


Within their corral,

the troubles gallop, skip, and hop.

Millions of them!

Dark, with luminescent colors reflecting off their feathers.

They tussle, sleep, play, and learn.

They eat.

Live, eat,

they live and they die.

Sometimes, when they breed,

they multiply

so much that they carpet the meadows with soft and dark shapes

and their vast numbers strain up against the wire gates.


What do I care?


Let yourself have peace of mind.

Let poetry


your midnight watchman.

Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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