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Nocturnal

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It's midnight now and sounds like midnight then,
The words like distant stars that faintly grace
                     The all-pervading dark of space,
                     But not meant for the world of men.
                                        It's not what we forget
But what was never known we most regret
Discovery of. Checking one last cassette
Among my old unlabelled discards, few
Of which reward the playing, I find you.

Some years after her death, but years ago,
Hearing Gwen's voice recite "Suburban Sonnet,"
                     At first we could not focus on it,
                     So jolted that the radio
                                        Should casually exhume
From our shared memory the woman whom
We knew and make her present in the room,
As though in flesh, surprised to find that she
Had earned this further immortality.

Who ever thought they would not hear the dead?
Who ever thought that they could quarantine
                     Those who are not, who once had been?
                     At that old station on North Head
                                        Inmates still tread the boards,
Or something does; equipment there records
The voices in the dormitories and wards,
Although it's years abandoned. Undeleted,
What happened is embedded and repeated,

Or so they say. And that would not faze you
Who always claimed events could not escape
                     Their scenes, recorded as on tape
                     In matter and played back anew
                                        To anyone attuned
To that stored energy, that psychic wound.
You said you heard the presence which oppugned
Your trespass on its lasting sole occasion
In your lost house. I scarcely need persuasion,

So simple is this case. Here in the dark
I listen, tensing in distress, to each
                     Uncertain fragment of your speech,
                     Each desolate, half-drunk remark
                                        You uttered unaware
That this cassette was running and would share
Far in the useless future your despair
With one who can do nothing but avow
You spoke from midnight, and it's midnight now.

Source: Poetry (January 2008)
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Nocturnal

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