Michael Ford

Two Poems


The New Atlantis


On dry land—everyone was dead—

            Cattle grazed—in the shadow of the

ferris wheel as—the landscape blew

            away—Billboards advertised—the seve-

ral regrets—of citizens who

            fell—and fall—like acrobats into

the sea—A city took to the

            water—A city was carved of wood—


crowded with electric lights—paint-

            ed on a bridge beam—A city was

painted on the wet ground—More like

            a storehouse of graffiti—More of

an agreement than a place—The

            city was marked—in the atlas as

lost—The map of the place—flickered—

            like a cracked—signal—“So—long”—The ci-

ty dropped past the horizon—A


million blinking windows—of rooms and


rooms and rooms—I’m lost in this fuck-

            ing building—The stairs go up—and halls

turn around them—The lights go out

            losing—one color at a time—be-

ginning with a watery blue—

            The building is asleep—When the ci-

ty returns from the sea—the har-

            bor will be dark—At the mast—the ci-


ty’s sailors sing—I have love in

            my heart—in my heart for the sea—for

the sea is deep and shallow—We

            make our way by match light—conveyed—on

light bones and feathers—wings fanned out

            where there might have been fingers—There is

a beautiful view of the lake

            from here—And of junked cars behind—fenc-

es rigged of pallet boards—The wet


arithmetic—of city streets—A


quick mark—at the edge of the woods—

            Though there are no woods left—lie down in

them—alone—Though you are never

            alone—More rain yesterday than to-

day—A city spanned by bridges—

            yellow honey instead of steel—no

people to cross—noisily—back

            and forth—in their skin—no cars no drinks


at noon or at night—We depend

            on this—Without it—our love sinks—And

the wind rises—Power lines down—

            leaves—bits of leaves—hurled at the door—The

postal service blue mailboxes

            wrapped—in black—plastic—to lend them dig-

nity—The city in the storm—

            asleep in a drum—dreaming drum beats—

A city written among—a


hawk’s lovely breast feathers—A city


written in the pale atmosphere—

            glancing through the telescope—and point-

ing out the wrong stars—What boats will

            the city sail?—And who will kiss us

as we disappear?—collapsing

            into the flowing city—I wear

a raincoat—gloves—the skin of an

            optimist—I wear a necklace of


colored glass—Trees wave—a meta-

            phor of waving trees—The gardener

has a mind for facts—Birds all o-

            ver the window ledge—To trace—also

in the wet sand—with a pointed

stick—the shape of the city—A sale

at the grocery—on sweet yellow

            onions—The names that recognize the

names we recognize—Everyone


comes here to get out of the rain—Ma-


ny more—live in shacks made of ply-

            wood—burn garbage of the world—for heat—

The crowd—whispering under the

            shining water—with watery eyes—

to watch over them—to silence

            them—All night long—they shut their doors—The

city contains houses—contains

            wheels—The city contains—the letters


of its name—and nothing else—They

            sailed the wrong kind of ship—The kind that

sinks—Men—patches of brown cloth—cross-

            ing the river—with the limbs of the

dismantled theater—in the dead

            of winter—they built an earth—A still

life with people walking through—On-

            ions—half-peeled oranges—bowl of loose

flowers and everyone you know





What we have in common—are the

            elaborate mechanical songs—of

metal birds—




                      tells the truth

                          to everyone



                    we’re bored to death


            We walk to work

          in the uniforms

                  of our trades


            We drive our cars—in the privacy


                  of a city where

                           nothing happens


Foil—feathers melt—in a corner

            of the room—My fingertips—dry—from

reading—I do god’s work as pun-

            isher—for the sake—of return—from


the margin—to the margin—The

            forest talking—to the puritans

about their houses—in the win-

            dows of—cheap electronics stores—


                  What is lost in the mail

                  had a hole in it


                  a landscape un-

                  punctuated and bright


                  three stars in a box

                  The alphabet


                  is a game of skill


A city—lit electrically—


                       at the bottom

                       of the sea


                       I think


            what an odd place to put a body—


What an odd place to put a sea—

            to drown—without even a passport—

All of the people here—walk in

            their sleep—They vanish—along a wire

suspended between two mountains—


                       fleeing the



            We’ll have to arrive—in envelopes—

postage—even—plastered to our

            eyes—It saves us—the inconvenience

of growing old—Turned over—one


                       at a time



                       fortune is

                       a pair


of fives—The whistle—of birds through

            the waves


                   To locate the city


                               follow the birds


                    To find the city


                               on the map


                                        close your eyes


The difficulty is


                  memory fails


         one minute

                    you’re sharpening pencils

                and the next

                        your apartment

                                     is the bottom of the sea


             and there’s no paper


                       to write on


                             Waves drift over

                                   the letters

                                 written in the line

                                      of your flight


                         and beneath it all

                                 we touch


                                    with tails and fins


What we have in common—is the

            desire to touch—and to float—longing-

ly in our hair—


                     in a dialogue

                                   of fresh

                               and salt water


                       moved by the sun

                              into the deeper current


                          followed by our clothes


            We have—in common—an elaborate

system of theft—and roads leading

            toward and away—


                     The story is tireless


                     “When we came to that island

                     the people there believed

                     we were gods”



Michael Ford recently moved from New Orleans to Athens, Georgia to pursue a doctoral degree in English at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Olympia Street (Trembling Pillow, 2008) and Carbon (Ugly Duckling, 2006). "The New Atlantis" and "Calypso" are parts of a series of 89-line poems that appear in a small book entitled Where We Expect to See You Soon, published by Ugly Duckling Presse.