Two Poems

Mark Ford

Ravished

Is the night
Chilly and dark? The night is chilly
But not dark. An all but full
April moon
Slides above barely visible clouds, and is greeted
By a burst of hooting from an urban
Tawny owl. On empty
Brownfield sites they nest, and rear their young, and feed
On vermin. Has
Any
Probing, saucer-eyed astronomer, even a modern
Or French one, ever
Grown genuinely accustomed ‘aux profondeurs du grand
Vide céleste’? Someone halts, and broods
In the deserted doorway of a Chinese
Emporium, someone
Is struggling to rise swiftly
From his chair.

*

A pair of empty
Curly brackets might have been
His colophon, I thought, parting one night
At closing time
On Great Russell Street, outside our last port of call, the Museum
Tavern. Between his thick-
Soled hiking boots rested a battered duffel bag with a single yellow
Shin-pad protruding. A group
Of youthful party-goers sashayed by – one wearing a traffic cone
On her head: ‘like
A complete unknooown,’ a voice from the pack
Intoned … I was picturing the shiny black
Cab he so imperiously
Hailed whisking him west, revving, cruising, braking, gliding
Across junctions, the driver
At length twisting around, awaiting payment, as I veered
And tacked through the eerily silent
Squares of Bloomsbury, towards Euston.

The Confidence Man

I dreamed some children I’d never met were playing at being Hölderlin walking to Bordeaux. One carried a bulging canvas knapsack on his back, and was wearing knee-breeches, a collarless jacket, a three-cornered hat and a pair of stout leather boots; his clothes were powdered white with the dust of the road. Another periodically shook his fist at the flawless skies, and cried out ‘Susette! Susette! oh my Susette!’ whenever he stumbled, or paused to rest. The third, a flaxen-haired girl, floated some distance in front; dressed in gingham, she advanced swiftly, but seemed to move neither her legs nor her arms, which dangled limply at her sides; over her head hung a searing white halo.

*

I sat
in the dark ivy, listening. These
fibrous networks
of arteries
and nerves are to alter
the way air itself enters
and leaves
the lungs. Through me
the voices of plover, of the ousel, of curlew, of buzzard
and snipe; and with this
fingernail
I flicked a pair of glittering ladybirds
as they mated on the curled leaf
of an apple tree, in May.