After Midnight

Hugo Williams

It was an old book about crime detection,
with pictures of murders
and the places where they were committed,
including street plans
showing you how to get there.

You were supposed to solve the murders
then fill in the answers
in boxes. It was like looking for
the partner to a rhyme
and not being able to find one.

As I struggled with my deductions
I kept losing my place
in the narrative, or being tricked
into following up false clues
and obvious red herrings.

Here was someone charged
with breaking the news of a murder
to the victim’s family,
who turned out to be the murderer himself.
I suppose I should have guessed.

I wondered where I was
in the story of my own death
and whether I should hold myself
responsible. Could such a thing be prevented?
Or had it already happened?

It was after midnight
when I flung the book away from me
and went to open the front door
for my ritual look at the nighthawks
standing outside the Old Queen’s Head.

Rain was lighting the street for violence
and I was that shadowy figure
lurking in a doorway
being looked back at suspiciously
from the other side of the street.