The next day, I found you wearing my t-shirt inside-out – no doubt
the way you would’ve found it, the way you would’ve found me.
The statement was unclear. You needed no extra armour,
wouldn’t dream of owning me, of leashing me like a dog.
Its fabric stretched and slouched across you in ways I couldn’t
have ever dared imagine. Yet you wouldn’t utter a single word
to me that wasn’t measured out by the ounce. And you wouldn’t
meet my gaze for more than a heartbeat, as if its weight –
or its curiosity – might propel you over some unanticipated abyss.
But you felt it too, the intoxication, the fear lining your guts,
understood the unspeakable power we now possessed,
to reshape the whole, ridiculous world around us at will.
Growing advice for young rhubarb
Stir again every year with the moon still shrugging off Aquarius.
Punch through the dormant shell of the earth,
then immediately unbunch your clusters of tiny yellow fists.
Ignore the daily, icy plunge into darkness;
the space, neat rows and unfair support offered to those around you.
Save your sourness for blushing stems,
your bitterness for parachute leaves.
Accept that you may well be neglected, unharvested, forgotten, abandoned,
yet allowed – perversely –
to thrive decades later in gardens where the house has become
no more than a shell,
a memory, even.
Remember you will always be enough.
Eaten up and spat out
Surely you were left amongst us by accident –
hovering above everything, button-eyed with
extra-terrestrial style, moving casually in and out
of dimensions we guessed were there but couldn’t
believe in? We worshipped you – at least until that
older kid with his monotone, jackbooted worldview,
synapses all raging with learned behaviour,
made a bloodied, breath-taking tableau of you
and your Post Office bicycle at the bus stop.
And we all stood by, ovine, mute, ruminating
inward thanks, because it was you and not us.
I watched your new face with its crushed ring of
fallen-angel curls, livid eyes alarmed with a sudden,
animal understanding. At nights – even now –
I scour the star-cold skies, desperately hoping
they returned to take you back, realising you were
wasted upon us. And I wonder – more importantly
– why it took them so damn long to realise.
All this energy burned up, this time elapsed,
and still everything we tried to fill lies empty.
Numbed eyes ask the other how this can be.
A wall of stars has slipped on their coats and
left the stage for another dawn, another silence.
A bottle sits embarrassed, naked on the table,
waiting to be beached elsewhere, message unread.
The bed has heard yet another of those stories
it will choose to ignore the sorrier details of later.
And you, me. The delusion of us. Never more
distant than when side by side, fighting for the
same air. Whispering, we walk on cartoon tiptoes
around the dereliction of ourselves, desperate
to avoid stirring up the forgotten ghosts as we
stumble around, wondering where the exits are.
Robert Ford’s poetry has appeared in print and online publications in the UK, US and elsewhere, including The Interpreter’s House, Brittle Star, Butcher’s Dog and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com/