Two Poems

Mark Ford

Last to Go

Things not necessarily funny
will stick in the memory, like recipes
for success, or how one once stood up
laughing, happy, a chip off the old block;
and I too, some days, rise, the applause
of the dying committee still ringing in my ears,
addressing absent friends, and those present,
for better or for worse, the tears now pouring
openly down my ravaged face. It’s as if
our spirits merge, and the collection plates are
overflowing into the last few minutes
of the time remaining, as unknown guests
prowl through the empty bedrooms searching
for the stoles, fur hats and winter coats
they deposited somewhere earlier in the evening.

Christmas

I very much enjoyed your latest book I lied having
NOT read it. Hurrah! We’re all of us bright as chickens
As if Jack liked Chrissie and Chrissie liked Jack.
Ah, we had a good season, then, we drew all five fixtures!
For Christmas, I asked my mother to knit me a tie
To go with my tunic. No! she snapped,
Go out and buy one. So off I samba –
When it was Sunday and all the shops were shut –
The streets are full enough though and there are
Some fine ankles showing through – my fertile imagination! –
I see mini-skirts where others see only galoshes,
I can count all my exes at the bus stop
All over with tinsel, polluting the atmosphere with
Their dirty breaths. It is lunchtime
So I hail a friend munching a pastrami sandwich –
He spotted me and then he lay flat in the snow.
‘Stop playing hookey,’ I yelled, ‘You’re grown up now!’
Then I thought – but what if something is really wrong?
I screeched to a halt beside his head
The snow spooning up into my sandals, and I shouted
‘Get up, Jake,’ and I toed him. Any moment
I expect him to grab me playfully by the ankle,
I quite liked the idea of a tussle in the Christmas snow
On Main St. He didn’t budge though.
Only the yellow stains of the mustard from his sandwich drooled
Scenting the crisp air. ‘Ah, come on Jake,
You think this a rodeo?’ I whisper to him,
‘Why not get up?’ And I threaten him with
The police, arrest, his sister in tears on the phone.
And I poured hot coffee down his throat, murmuring
‘But it’s the season of Goodwill, no one plays for keeps
Over Christmas.’ What kept him down there,
Face in the slush, people must’ve seen him eating
Pastrami sandwiches before?
                                              Apparently not. I waited
All afternoon by him, chain-smoking his Camels,
And then I watched his feet disappear into the ambulance
That arrived after dark. I stamped his damp sandwich
Back into the snow. People, I thought,
Will find this when the thaw sets in
And wonder about it, shopping or on their way to work,
Birds like sparrows will nibble the sesame seeds
And wish it were Pumpernickel,
It will liven up their Easter.