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 céleste’? 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.

Where next?

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.


Buy album £9.99

1Looping the Loop


2Early to Bed, Early to Rise


3The Gaping Gulf


4Six Children


5The Death of Hart Crane


6After Africa




8A Natural History


9The Confidence Man


10Show Time




12In Loco Parentis


13World Enough


14Under the Lime Trees


15A Swimming Pool Full of Peanuts


16International Bridge-Playing Woman


Books by Mark Ford