Poem | Show Time

Tempus fugit every sundial
proclaims, yet over and over
time seems to swoon, or to expand, even
to grind
to a juddering halt
when I blog; a dreadful day
online, I think I mean, is a dreadful
day forever. My current
screensaver is a sniper’s-
eye view of a traffic warden
back to photograph
an illegally parked car. Hatchet-
faced tax inspectors invade my dreams: “We need
you to live,” they murmur
as they pass, lips
nearing, even brushing
my helpless ear.

                         In what
wrinkle, in what furrow
or fissure lurks
the longing to make the worst
happen? As if
I had conjured them, one
Halloween two hooded figures loomed
above me
on a bridge I was dawdling across
in downtown Boston; their cradled
half bricks crashed
con brio, with energy and purpose
into my swirling
stream of thoughts...treats
for the favored few, endless
tricks for the others...traveling by water
is best because you n-n-n-n-never
have to go uphill...

                          I lay
prone awhile...then, springing
to life, into action,
I fled. Something—my heart—boomed
and echoed like pursuing
footsteps on asphalt. Leeeeeft, a voice shouted
in a comic French accent, erpp yer aass. Laughter.
Don’t stop don’t stop
till you get enough! “Are you,” I recall
demanding of a friendly
paramedic as he shone his pencil torch
deep into my eyes, “an electric light bulb, and
if so,
what wattage?” No one
I met seemed to know
about soldier ants, about how
their jaws, or maybe their claws, are used in Africa
to stitch up wounds.

with a warning, how quietly
I crept home through the mazy, moonlit
streets of Roxbury, avoiding
alleys and skips, my scars
stinging like unwisely
acquired tattoos. Halloween
was over. High
above rows of ghostly buildings
hollowed out
by descendants of the locust or the palmer-
or cankerworm, giant
Citgo and Exxon signs smiled
encouragement. Glancing
down, I noticed a red coin
of blood disfiguring
the left knee of my chinos—and thinking
this funny, I began to limp.

Reprinted by permission from Selected Poems by Mark Ford (Coffee House Press). Copyright 2013 Mark Ford.

Published in the July 11, 2014 issue: 

Mark Ford has published three collections of poetry and a biography of the French writer Raymond Roussel.

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