Every day at four they burst the dam, the sound
of the siren demolishing the loaded stillness
of the afternoon air, and from down the road –
squinting into the sun – you’d see them emerge,
a river of a hundred men on bicycles, flowing along
like a grainy film of everyday scenes smuggled
out of communist China, their trousers clipped
securely above the ankles, thermos flasks nosing
between the neat teeth of zips on shouldered bags.
Who knew what on earth they did in there, precisely
which pieces of the mechanism they may have been?
Or fathomed out the metronomic precision that made it
all fit together? As the torrent swam by, each one
making a shadow puppet across the tarmac, their
amber faces shone like zen monks, giving nothing away.
Robert Ford’s poetry has appeared in both 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 here