Weekly Poem: Mark Ford reads ‘In Loco Parentis’


Mark Ford reads “In Loco Parentis” from his collection “Selected Poems.”

In Loco Parentis

were some quite creepy men—one
used to lie down
on the dayroom floor, then get us all
to pile on top of him—and a basilisk-
eyed matron in a blue unifrom with a watch
beneath her right
collarbone. Thump thump
went her footsteps, making
the asbestos ceiling tiles shiver, and me
want to hide, or run like a rabbit
in a fire…
                     What we lost, we lost
forever. A minor
devil played at chess
with us, forcing
the pieces to levitate
and hover, flourishing swords, in midair. I’d grasp
them now, the orotund bishop, the stealthy
knight, the all-
knowing queen,
but they dissolve
in my fingers, refuse
to return to the board, to their squares.

Photo by Mark Hinkley courtesy Coffee House Press.

Photo by Mark Hinkley courtesy Coffee House Press.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Mark Ford is the author of four collections of poetry, including “Soft Sift” and “Six Children.” “Selected Poems” is his most recent work. Ford is also the author of the biography “Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams,” and a translation of Roussel’s last poem, “Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique.” That translation was the runner up for a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. Ford has also written criticism. He published two collections, “A Driftwood Altar” and “Mr and Mrs Stevens and Other Essays” and has had his work published in journals such as the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. Ford earned his BA and Ph.D. from the University of Oxford and he received a Kennedy Scholarship from Harvard University. He currently teaches at University College, London.

Excerpts from Selected Poems by Mark Ford courtesy of Coffee House Press.