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That summer a Viking landed on Mars 

and ladybirds invaded Earth. 


On the asphalt I found you abandoned 

by the swarm as it melted away. 


I gave you shelter in a clear acrylic 

pillbox that I’d stolen from the nurse – 


then tried a show-and-tell but no one 

cared. The Olympics were on. 


Halfway up the fire escape I sat
and listened to the choking hydrants 


dying in the street
as I watched you crawl around the box, 


and willed you to run, to be the fastest 

harlequin on legs. 


But you only stopped. 


Did I know you needed air? A leaf,
a drop of rain? Perhaps. I don’t remember. 


            seven polka dots –
            noir on ruby carapace – 

            painted fingernail 


Patrick Chapman has published nine poetry collections since 1991, as well as five other books. Other writing includes for film, television and radio. His next poetry collection, The Following Year, is due from Salmon in 2023. He lives in Ireland. 

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