Under the Lime Trees

Mark Ford

All that glitters
is not glass, but lots and lots
of it is, mused
the helmeted cyclist … o you fast-
spinning tyres, so delicately ridged, so like the scales
of a young crocodile – avoid
whatever sparkles, and that
flap-hatted woman weaving
her way briskly against the traffic, her hands
a jiving blur as she belts
out snatches of We’re just
two little girls from Little Rock … the one who broke
my heart …
in Little Rock … Are these
I spy the deserving
poor, fully adrift, or breast-fed bohemians (weird
thought of the day!) jostling on a street corner beside
an all but emptied rack
of Boris bikes? Wolves
living on wind, sur le Noël, morte
saison …
               we do not feel
the speck of dust that alights
on our shoulder, nor
its fatal cousin, the germ we inhale, unknowing,
and cannot spit out. It slides
through the unmapped city
within. Responsive
cells divide or move, suddenly
restless, alert, driving, dragging
from the abyss an image
of myself cowboy-hatted, aged three, proudly astride
an East African zebra. The spongy marrow
buried in our bones
enriches the blood that unites, as it flows, nerve
and muscle, tissue and tendon, propelling
all smoothly forward like a river swirling
over its unseen bed; while every
active capillary, if challenged, or opposed, or howsoever
aroused, dilates
in bold defiance, in outright
scorn of the cold footsteps creeping like mist …
                                                                                 blink,
and click your heels one-two-three, and the yellow
brick road is thigh-
deep in nettles and willowherb. Even
when it’s invisible the sun
flings into space its gassy flames, each day
enthrones itself, and we, too, must purge our minds of the inert
and confining, dwell
in thoughts that breathe, and words that burn, or shine
brightly as a falling
guillotine … blink
again and the fantastical
flow of money
and data bursts like a blood vessel, scattering
the crowds gathered beneath the weeping
limes. It happened
I fell in with one kicking wildly
at piles of sticky, heart-shaped leaves – his cheeks were furrowed
with scars, and his left ear seemed torn: ‘Follow,’
he confided, ‘the scent to the vixens’ lair … take up
your broken bicycle, and with both hands hurl it as far … as far …’