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The Saturday poem: Night Workers


By Helen Dunmore

All you who are awake in the dark of the night,
all you companions of the one lit window
in the knuckled-down row of sleeping houses,

all you who think nothing of the midnight hour
but by three or four have done your work
and are on the way home, stopping

at traffic lights, even though there is no one
but you in either direction. How different the dark is
when day is coming; you know all this.

All you who have kept awake through the dark of the night
and now go homeward; you, charged with the hospital's
vending-machine coffee; you working all night at Tesco,

you cleaners and night-club toilet attendants,
all you wearily waiting for buses
driven by more of you, men who paint lines

in the quiet of night, women with babies
roused out of their sleep so often
they've given up and stand by their windows

watching the fog of pure neon
weaken at the rainy dawn's coming.

• From The Malarkey published by Bloodaxe (£8.95). To order a copy for £7.16 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop

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