Civil Service

Anthony Thwaite

The government department is deserted
But all the lights are on. It lies below
The pavement, rises up, a stump of glass,
And all the lights are on, and no one there.
It’s Friday night, at nine. And why indeed
Should anyone be there? But all the lights are on.

Banks of computers sit there, room on room
Frozen in rectangles of green on black;
And here’s an office where two chairs exchange
A dialogue which must have finished when
They left at half-past five. Beyond that door
A drinks-machine winks to itself, alone.

The filing-cabinets are shut. A desk-top
Opens itself to any passing eye
But keeps its drawers locked. Hunched, apart,
A word-processor has run out of words.
Round it, the streets are screaming, siren-rent.
The government department is deserted.