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Boy at the Side of the Road


Long after bedtime, a lonely street,

he rubs his hands like a magician,

pulls nothing from his sleeve. He shivers

in the coatless summer, is silent,

which seems unnatural, unnerving.


The terraces rise on each side, unaware,

bright movie frames of candle lighters, lovers,

television jungles, microwave dinners.


A city fox slinks from the shadows, checks for traffic

with his coal nose and chalk feet. He’s stone

legged, petrified when their eyes meet.

Instinct  insists they’re discreet – the boy holds

a finger out,  the fox holds steady. Their moment

seems to stretch for eternity


until a distant holler breaks the vigil

and they revert to their refuge: the fox flies

to shrubbery, the boy scarpers.


The pub sends out its drunks, who scream

and fight. From her window, a geriatric whines

that she’s trying to sleep. Long after bedtime,

I can’t tell one star from another, wonder

if it’s a different moon shining on the same corners.



© Russell Jones

Picture 11090271, unattributed photograph, circa 1940, image copyright Mary Evans / Kathy Butler Collection



Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor. He has published four collections of poetry, the most recent being The Green Dress Whose Girl is Sleeping (Freight Books). He is the deputy editor of Shoreline of Infinity, a science fiction magazine, and is the editor of Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK (Penned in the Margins) and co-editor of Umbrellas of Edinburgh: Poetry and Prose Inspired by Scotland’s Capital City (Freight Books). He writes YA fiction and has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh. Russell enjoys White Russians, Twiglets and karaoke.