Two Poems

Mark Ford

One Figures

in his plans, but briefly, as a cupped hand
holds water, or as private and public spheres collide

and blur, overlap within his fragile, omnivorous
stare. Barely awake, dazed and blinking, I was urged under

solemn oath to consider the lilies of the field who neither
toil nor spin. Hallelujah, I meant to answer, selah, only

a seething, surf-like roaring in my ears seemed to engulf
then drown both question and pause; twitching

open the drapes I glimpsed the faint sodium halo
of a street lamp through a tangle of jagged, spiny boughs.

                                       *

I hate to lie, but unfortunately have come to loathe
the insatiable, unsheathed claws of truth; secret

forms of relation emerge, are brooded over
by the elect, then used to sell cars, newspapers, cosmetics

and sportswear. Contrarily, a sort of giddiness
rages in the veins of the innocent bystander, who leans

or shuffles ever closer, flushed and starry-eyed. Bruised
ex-lovers warn things will get harder, darker before

abruptly ceasing: in obscure, fiery runes each must learn
like Belshazzar, how to be numbered, weighed, divided.

                                       *

So be it; as the sun dips behind the stadium, behind
minaret and mosque, a droning police helicopter banks

and circles, banks and circles: unnerved, an urban
vixen pokes her elegant muzzle skywards, deliberates,

then abandons her scavenging. Chapter and verse
yield to the fierce will of commentators, who rebuke

us all for invading the distance between soil and words,
hunger and clouds. In revenge, the rudiments – Baloo’s

simple bare necessities – keep flowering into puns
that both induce double vision, and demand perfect balance.

                                      *

One falls, another clings like a fruit-fly to a shivering
nearly tangible cobweb of discounts, evasions

and regrets; on narrow inspection it transpires, further, our
unique covenant is open to the winds, and all

but illegible after dark. Blown about, drenched
to the bone, I keep returning to certain perilous clauses in fine

print that appear to refer, through a species of anagram, to my
wanderings and fears. Pinch me, pinch me, we hear ourselves murmur

over and over, as fierce measures are fervently called for
and taken, inscribed first in blood, then chiselled in stone.

We Crave

attention, then come over all coy, and start fiddling
with watch-strap and buttons, or talking about a friend
of a friend who claims to own the world’s largest collection
of aquarium ornaments, yet has no aquarium. In the mean-
time the tough-minded argue each of us is loved not
so much for his or her oddities, as in spite of them, or even
faute de mieux! Families form, squabble on long
car journeys, invent nicknames for strangers: the tyres hum
their own tune, and in shimmering forecourts
the baked atmosphere presses from all sides, searing
the lungs. We commend, internally, the wisdom of the soft-
voiced tycoon who acquired the land, only
to flatten it, then skilfully divide it into distinct
yet related lots: a spongy layer of wood-chips lines
the criss-crossing paths, and whispers faintly underfoot.

As it was drummed into me, I would drum it
into others: the art or science of management never
pauses, though it occasionally lies low, or enacts
retreat like a Parthian archer. Invariably, speed and stealth
take advantage of the famous, non-existent ‘margin’ poor
Herbert Pocket kept urging upon Pip; a sound decisive
as the whir and double click of a computer mouse
signals the arrival of the inner bailiffs, and an era
of thrift. Listen harder, and through the virtual prison bars
comes swarming the buzz of creditors and debtors over
lunch, each pledging allegiance to the other, to knowledge,
to the mysteries of living on thin air ...