The Watchers

The children felt the eyes
burning down into their backs.
They turned and saw three statues
down by the crossed tracks.

Their legs were thin and sharp,
their heads were bronze blocks.
The children grasped their courage,
took aim with dirt and rocks.

Stones clanged off the metal,
mud sucked the faceless grins.
The children kept-up their assault,
then heard a malefic din.

A droning from the statues,
a blade scrapes teeth in a jaw,
a sound so full of hatred that
the children dropped down to the floor.

They quivered as the snow fell
on this bone-October night
the statues gawped, sightless,
as the moon began to bright.

The children’s knees were knocking,
tears juggling from their eyes
the statues kept up their stare,
eager for their prize.

One child ventured nearer
though fear told her to flee.
The statues’ gazes deepened
each peered more hungrily.

She ventured a hand to feel
the bronze-black shining skin.
The statues tensed to the touch,
the girl felt her finger sting.

A smudge of red barely visible
amongst the metal and the mud.
The children fled, screaming
the girl sucked at the blood.

The statues on the crossed tracks
had hoped the children would linger.
They rippled as they savoured
the taste of that girl’s finger.

The statues are always watching
from the tracks upon the hill
they sing for flesh and blood.
They’re out there singing still.

Copyright: from Overheard In A Tower Block (Otter-Barry Books, 2017), © Joseph Coelho 2017, used by permission of the author and the publisher

More about this poem

Joseph grew up in Roehampton on the outskirts of London. Living in a tower block and other childhood memories feature in many of his poems.

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About The Watchers

In Roehampton, where I grew up, there were many pieces of public art. One that has stayed with me is a piece called The Watchers by Lynn Chadwick - Three huge bronze statues with block heads standing on three spindle-like legs each.

These statues scared me and all my friends so much so that we referred to them as The Three Witches and stayed clear. I would pass them every day on my way to school I lived on top of a hill and at the bottom of the hill was my school so as I walked to school I would feel the statues staring down onto my back.

When I first came across Walter De La Mare's The Listeners about the disembodied presence in a house, listening. I was reminded of this statue that is still in Roehampton, the three witches looking over their hill... watching!

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