I like the Late Shift,
the long, lonely hours,
the silence, the darkness
spreading over the sleeping city,
broken in patches by the
the pools of orange light
spilt beneath the street lamps.
I like to listen for
the familiar rattle of the chainlink fence,
the click of the padlock across the road
as the security guard working his rounds
checks a gate and waves to me.
I wave back he gets in his car and drives off,
three years and we have never spoken, still
the secret Fellowship of the Late Shift
unites us. A patrol car prowls past
ignoring me as I open a fire escape door,
in my worker’s uniform
I’m just part of the landscape.
Yes when you work with the Midnight Crew,
a strange bond is shared
by the band of professional insomniacs
who keep the city running at night,
like some shadowy secret society
the day crowd hears rumours of/
the Indian guy behind the counter at the seven eleven
smiles when I walk in for my usual 2am coffee
we chat, ask after each other’s family,
the Taxi Drivers on their folding armchairs
outside the all night petrol station nod at me/
As I drive from job to job
in the space and loneliness of the long night
the fellowship of the late shift expands
in the vacuum/ takes in Nurses
and Ambulance Drivers/sullen Waitresses in all night Diners/
Road-Workers furiously excavating
beneath flashing yellow lights,
as the blue strobe of the Ambulance
wails past in counterpoint/ Cleaners mopping/
the Night Clerks nodding over their desks,
television voices muttering softly in the background/
somewhere now the Bakers arise like yeast
to warm their ovens and knead the dough/
The Prostitutes yawn
and file their nails waiting for the dawn,
whilst their Dealers surf the channels
awaiting their end-of-shift call/
meanwhile the Water Police fish
another body out of the river
and somewhere a lone Technician
flicks a switch.
I drive from job to job
thru vast industrial estates.
Far away in the distance
beneath enormous hangars of concrete and steel
tiny workers like aliens dressed in orange jumpsuits
and breathing apparatus
work in clusters of frantic activity
operating incomprehensible machines
for mysterious Combines
with unknown goals,
who hide their true Identity behind
bland, anonymous acronymns.
In daylight the answer is probably
depressingly prosaic but by the moonlight
Mystery adheres to the most concrete realities.
At the Service Station on my way home
the concrete has been washed clean
by a passing shower, the Sky
is shifting thru soft shades of grey and pink,
the day birds are waking up
and starting to sing & crarrk,
and the whole world is reborn anew once more,
while gentle waves of exhaustion
are lapping at my mental shore.
“How was your night?” the Attendant
and I ask each other, like two Survivors
sharing stories no-one else could understand
unless they’d been there.
And as I drive home everyone-else
is heading the other way.
The Reverend Hellfire is a practised Performance Poet,
President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.,
a proud blue-collar worker,
and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism
AND the Church of the Universe.
A solitary, nocturnal species that forages over a wide range.