D.M. Thomas

Night Watch
October 9, 2014 Thomas D.M.

Night Watch


It’s instant art:  transmuted to the net

Voluptuous flesh and rich blonde hair,

Breasts bare, pushed up by a black corselette

That echoes, with a sheen of silk,

Darkness outside the car’s interior.

As with the kitchen maid who’s pouring milk


In Vermeer’s painting, we are drawn toward

The face, the psyche; her smile’s confused,

Proud as she knows the evening will afford

None more enticing to men’s eyes,

And narcissistic, willing to be used,

Yet also as if taken by surprise,


Although the window’s down.  Her husband’s caught

The moment when, from night, dark sleeves

Intruded and hands close on what they sought,

A breast, a thigh.  A third man can’t

Get close enough, his hands like floating leaves,

The right one palm-out, like a supplicant


Pleading for alms.   I’ve seen it in Raphael,

The lame reaching for Christ, say; and

The hands that touch and stroke look worshipful

Likewise.  They’re aching to be healed.

The scene seems Christian:  the ripe, glowing blonde,

A Magdalene; her husband glad to yield


Her beauty in this lonely woodland clearing

To men less blessed.  Her hands are vague,

The left one, smudgy, almost disappearing

Into the unstroked breast, a shy

Gesture, as though she wishes to renege

On some domestic pact, or wonders why


Their marriage has become a rendezvous

With chaos.  For beyond, more cars

And camper vans we sense, and women who

Couple with strangers, often two

Together, under trees and as the stars

Serenely move above and awed guys queue,


And watch with their car-beams.  As with Rembrandt’s

Night Watch, all we’re allowed to see,

A gift, like art, to shock us or entrance,

Is this chiaroscuro, dark

And light, created accidentally,

Six hands, one woman, in a dogging park.

D.M. Thomas is a British novelist and poet. He was awarded the Los Angeles Times Fiction prize for his novel The White Hotel, an international bestseller, translated into 30 languages; a Cholmondeley award for poetry; and the Orwell Prize for his biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He lives in his native Cornwall, England. His most recent work is Vintage Ghosts, a verse novel (Francis Boutle, 2012).