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In Loco Parentis

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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.

Source: Poetry (January 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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In Loco Parentis

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  • Mark Ford was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and earned both his BA and DPhil from the University of Oxford. His collections of poetry include Landlocked (1991), Soft Sift (2001), Six Children (2011), and Selected Poems (2014). He is the author of a biography, Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (2000), and a parallel text translation of Roussel’s last poem, Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique (New Impressions of Africa) (2011), which was the runner-up for a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation from the PEN American Center.
     
    Ford’s criticism and essays have appeared widely in journals such as the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He has published two collections of criticism, A Driftwood Altar (2005) and Mr and Mrs Stevens and Other Essays (2011), and edited the anthology London: A History in Verse (2012). His honors and awards include a Kennedy Scholarship at Harvard...

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