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


Probing, saucer-eyed astronomer, even a modern

Or French one, ever

Grown genuinely accustomed ‘aux profondeurs du grand

Vide celeste’? 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.

from Six Children (Faber, 2011), © Mark Ford 2011, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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