Joint third 2003 - Robert Griffiths
At four am you scream from your dark bedroom,
our prisoner, our secret, our madman;
through the cold, purple night you scream
at the bleak tree-line and the dead moon,
and I struggle out of my own thin sleep
and slide from the tentacles of my nightmare,
to your room's muzzy, black, washed-out slop
of light, and breathe its searing air,
to find you face down inside god knows what
useless suffering makes you sob like this;
what knowledge has come knocking at this cot,
its chill straight off the wastes of bitterness?
All I can do is lift you out, and clamp you tight
to the ledge of my collar bone, and sit watching
the long night we both cower from, and wait
in the roofless, rained-on sadness of your crying.
Night Terror opens extremely well -- that idea of the baby as 'our prisoner, our secret, our madman' is very good indeed. Reminded me of Mr Rochester's wife in Jane Eyre, as it was no doubt intended to.
Again it's a poem in which sound works really well to knit the fabric, not only in the rhyming structure, but in assonance inside the lines. In the first stanza I liked the 'am, scream, bedroom, madman, scream, bleak, tree-line, moon' - these sounds build a mysterious gothic atmosphere. I am less certain about the second stanza which I think has too many adjectives for its own good, but I do like the third stanza which is sharp and effective. I like the knocking sounds in 'what knowledge has come knocking at this cot'.
I think the first three lines of the last stanza are perfect. Wonderful writing. The last line has a kind of beauty about it,a long mourning howl, but I think the earlier lines are better and that the end may be trying just a bit too hard. Having said this, I think it is a good poem, and one I would remember.