for Stephen

Every sock in the bunch you’re holding

is a dangling single. You wonder how many more

must be mouldering, partnerless, stuck in drawers.

Later, on the way to work, you remember

the lost mug patterned with rosemary you think

an absent-minded friend slipped into her bag,

and picture the half-dead umbrella you left on a bus.

But all this is trivial on a day when the smudged air

is buzzing with the loss of jobs, self-respect, children.

Hopeless, you fold the newspaper, turn to now—

this moment on a train underground: that black lad,

beautiful in his pale blue anorak. You try to work out

why his hands are across his eyes. To block out

the world as he listens to the sounds wires

are bringing to his ears? To survey the carriage?                   

Already this now has passed out of reach, become

a memory which will sink or swim among millions

of others in your mind’s measureless caverns.

Now, you visualize time as unstoppable sand falling

through a sieve, count the growing refusals

of your body. They remind you a moment will come

when you’ll lose the privilege of consciousness,

remind you not to hang around limply as a sock

but to forestall this last loss with findings:

a sparrowhawk perched on your gate, eyes alert

for prey, words that toadleap from imagination,

from heart—to make sure every day is a finding.

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