The Ballad of John O'Kelly
Darkness has fallen all around
covering the cracks of city life.
The DJs, the barmen, the dancers.
The waiters, the actors, the singers.
All who know the ugly beauty
of the city at night begin to wake.
The bright lights come on.
Restaurants, theatres, cinemas
and brothels throw open their doors.
They quickly fill with people
out for a night of pleasure
and for carefree fun.
Older men steal hungry glances
at girls in their short skirts and in low cut tops
and the wives look on with of envy
at the loveliness and the beauty of the young.
Teenage boys and teenage girls
happy, daring and full of lust
head for the clubs and for the pubs.
In the hypnotic beat of music
old lovers kiss, new lovers meet
and the scent of sex is hanging in the air.
The wretched ones wake
to start again their life of shame.
With painted smiles on their faces
they stand in darkened doors
to sell their kind of love
in dingy basements below
and in dirty rooms above.
Fragile, afraid and bewildered
all they want is to go to mother
in a far away place in some foreign land.
The forgotten and the forsaken
come to the railway bridge
to spend another lonely night.
Their stories never told,
from a baby girl or baby boy
to a drunken mess
with nothing but a flask of meths
or vinegar wine.
Tonight some will be beaten
and some will feel
the blade of a knife in their gut.
Three in the morning.
All is still but for the sounds of night.
A dog barking in the distance.
A lover abandoning another.
And of the man who walks softly
into the bedroom of his sleeping wife.
In this lonely night
Johnny O'Kelly drinks
the scotch and downs the vodka
needing to forget the one who said
she will stay with him for ever.
But as she was promising undying love
she was opening the door.
All is quiet at this hour
except for the sound of those hurting,
and of those who have lost all hope
and of he sound of Johnny's body
floating slowly down the river.
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Comments about this poem (The Ballad of John O'Kelly by Chris Zachariou )
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