Lisa Barnett: "The Night Watchman of Alcatraz"


Now the buoy bells clang and the foghorns moan;

the night watchman of Alcatraz paces alone

on “The Rock” with the gathering gulls and the ghosts

and the gloom and the languid old, seen-it-all moon.  

He feels the birds watching to see if he’ll crack

from the silence that’s weighted with all of his fears.

The ferry’s long gone, and he thinks that he hears

a sound like the long-ago clinking of toasts,

but it’s only the wind playing tricks in the dark.          

The cell house looms up the hill in the park

and the end of his shift won’t come any time soon,

so he walks down the halls with his keys and his gun

till the moon disappears and the ferry comes back.

Then he makes his escape, his night’s work at last done.

He sails from the Rock with his face in the sun.



Lisa Barnett's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in First Things, Hudson Review, Measure, New Criterion, and elsewhere.