CCTV Central Control

by Tom Warner

Eight-hour shifts on rolling nights wouldn’t suit some
– people with kids and a wife – but the money’s okay
and I’m my own boss, in a way, or at least it feels like that
when I pan across girls stamping their feet in the taxi rank,

zoom in on men squaring up in the street between bars,
or watch a woman sat against the glass of the Turkish Kebab,
head lolling between her bare knees, all her long hair
covering her face. They never look into the camera.

The Eye in the Sky, that’s the game I play in my head,
but this job takes serious discretion: Outside of work,
you must never discuss what you see on your screens.
I switch between twenty; the others work ten at the most.

Some stick it out for a year or so, then leave or get asked to go.
Darren I know fell asleep on the job. His phone was flashing
and flashing and flashing on the desk next to mine.
Operatives must demonstrate excellent concentration, Darren.

Ashley in Archives was sacked for leaving a door unlocked.
Most of the time nothing much happens, just the silent film,
the roll of drunken friends hanging from each other’s necks.
My colleagues find ways to pass the time. I don’t join in.

Never record over a shift. I liked Ashley, but sometimes the film
tells it wrong and I’ve been doing this job long enough to know
what’s a crime and what’s just two people fooling around.
These things would be better with the sound turned up.

My dad always said I’d never amount to anything
staring at a screen all night, but here I am, doing just that:
a free man with a one-bed rent on the seventh-floor
of that mirrored-glass tower he hated. I’m my own man

and when I get home after a shift, I pull a chair up to the glass
like it’s some massive VDU on which I watch the sun
and all those city workers rising from the ground,
changed, wiped clean, as though nothing was ever as it was.