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 uniform with a watch
dangling
beneath her right
collarbone. Thump thump
thump went her footsteps, making
the asbestos ceiling tiles quiver, 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.

More Poems by Mark Ford