Image by Clem Onojeghuo


the madrigal, volume iii

to the shapeshifter

by mary ford neal

you might be a melting clock     but you are
a man with a dog’s head. beneath your muzzle        your tie

is pale orange silk      and your jacket
is forest green tweed. you hold a pipe in your hand

which you never raise to your lips.
the thing is just to stand there.
you only stand on scuffed parquet floors      in front of
whitewashed walls. you might be framed
but it’s not necessary.

you could have been a high-backed chair        but in fact you are
a turquoise tiled fireplace        clashing gently with

an exposed brick wall.
you don’t like heat     but it’s your vocation and

you suck it up.      very dated
you’d hoped they might rip you out       but
you grew on them. they’re quirky.

you always said the life force was in everything
and look at you now     member of the inanimate community

yellow Bakelite coffee pot       revelling in caffeinated rightness.

i’d have recognised you anywhere. on reflection
i’d have expected something else    perhaps a rubber duck
or a jack-in-the-box     but this is perfect for you    bravo.

first thing anyone sees in the room     and bound

to be touched and held.
you’ve lucked out.

Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic based in the West of Scotland, where she still lives and works. Her poetry is widely published / forthcoming in magazines and anthologies, and her first collection, ‘Dawning’, will be published by Indigo Dreams in August 2021. Mary is assistant editor of Nine Pens press and ‘192’ magazine. She is on Twitter @maryfordneal.