Enter, Fleeing

Mark Ford

Undo that step, or at the least
tread softly, for a sleek
and bushy-tailed urban fox
is counting chick-
chick-chick-
chickens in his dreams; when he wakes
he’ll yawn
and prowl, while I’ll
be staring, shamefaced, down
the grainy, haunted
vistas opened
by insomnia. Sing, birds, I mean all
ye bird-brained in every
furrow that you hop in; warble
tales of the species that will wade
through estuaries, and stalk the plains, or tunnel
beneath them, after mishap
or meteor. Convulsed
and jangling, flooded
with adrenaline, the body empties itself of water in order
to skedaddle, to leap
and run ever higher
and faster, only the seconds
pass and each
stretched limb, each trembling joint stays
locked in unremitting combat
with itself. Gulp
or gab, gab, gab, gulp – out
stream the lies, twisting
in the wind, for who

ever felt a single sensation? Is not
everyone at the same moment
conscious that there co-
exist a thousand
others? I flinched when the tongue of the thin
green snake flickered as I slid
through the hedge; American milk
tasted different, while in blurry
black-and-white an eager
villain heaved
his shield at Fluid-Man, who changed, chuckling
aloud, into mist or stream, or slanting
rain. I saw, amazed, a cartoon
needle stitching nametags inscribed
in flaming italics with my own
initials and name
into the waistbands and collars
of unfamiliar clothes; the air
was sucked out
of my lungs, while iridescent specks wriggled
and turned turtle
before my eyes. My brother
was singing of Daniel – he was leaving
tonight on a plane … we watched
the red tail lights
at O’Hare, and found that he’d left
behind in our elegantly-finned
maroon Chevrolet his equally maroon school cap, which I
at once hoisted high, and then
with a grimace, and a flourish, put on.