Two Poems

Mark Ford

Jack Rabbit

Will I ever catch up, or will I be easily
Caught first? It was assumed I’d branch out
With the heretics, commit a few crimes, then
Suffer the decreed punishment: instead, I paused
Near the knoll where the vociferous and well-
Groomed gather to consider their options. I yearned
To wade through buttercups and clover towards
The sinister squadrons of an embattled
Bourgeoisie. Vivid mottoes – One Size Fits
Nearly All!, No Grammar, No Furniture!, Le Temps
Viendra! – still adorn the half-built walls. Prodigal
Sons and daughters stream forth in search
Of business, clutching their coats, bewildered by doubts
And strange aches; a thin layer of soot powders the buildings
They pass, and the cracked bark of the peeling plane-trees.

*

So I planned to get quicker, leaner, braver, more
Self-effacing: I’d pick my way between
The mounds of junk cast off by warring factions, cleverly
Disguised and idly humming. I swam midstream
With the freshwater boys, and lounged on rocks
At evening. Meanwhile the air slowly thickened
With intrigue. Blueprints and memoranda
Began to circulate like the seasons, melting
The obdurate, blossoming where least expected;
We were to police ourselves, produce
Solemn recommendations, fall on our own
Swords. Wishes were transfigured into parables
And omens. Neither threats nor Chinese burns
Demolished my cloudy strategies, though a tow-haired
Bullyboy still slouches at the edge of sight, killing time.

Twenty Twenty Vision

Unwinding in a cavernous bodega he suddenly
Burst out: Barman, these tumblers empty themselves
And yet I persist; I am wedged in the giant eye
Of an invisible needle. Walking through doors
Or into them, listening to anecdotes or myself spinning
A yarn, I realise my doom is never to forget
My lost bearings. In medias res we begin
And end: I was born, and then my body unfurled
As if to illustrate a few tiny but effective words –
But – oh my oh my – avaunt. I peered
Forth, stupefied, from the bushes as the sun set
Behind distant hills. A pair of hungry owls
Saluted the arrival of webby darkness; the dew
Descended upon the creeping ferns. At first
My sticky blood refused to flow, gathering instead
In wax-like drops and pools: mixed with water and a dram
Of colourless alcohol it thinned and reluctantly
Ebbed away. I lay emptied as a fallen
Leaf until startled awake by a blinding flash
Of dry lightning, and the onset of this terrible thirst.