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In Modern Dress

Written by: Craig Raine | Biography
 A pair of blackbirds
warring in the roses,
one or two poppies

losing their heads,
the trampled lawn
a battlefield of dolls.
Branch by pruned branch, a child has climbed the family tree to queen it over us: we groundlings search the flowering cherry till we find her face, its pale prerogative to rule our hearts.
Sir Walter Raleigh trails his comforter about the muddy garden, a full-length Hilliard in miniature hose and padded pants.
How rakishly upturned his fine moustache of oxtail soup, foreshadowing, perhaps, some future time of altered favour, stuck in the high chair like a pillory, features pelted with food.
So many expeditions to learn the history of this little world: I watch him grub in the vegetable patch and ponder the potato in its natural state for the very first time, or found a settlement of leaves and sticks, cleverly protected by a circle of stones.
But where on earth did he manage to find that cigarette end? Rain and wind.
The day disintegrates.
I observe the lengthy inquisition of a worm then go indoors to face a scattered armada of picture hooks on the dining room floor, the remains of a ruff on my glass of beer, Sylvia Plath's Ariel drowned in the bath.
Washing hair, I kneel to supervise a second rinse and act the courtier: tiny seed pearls, tingling into sight, confer a kind of majesty.
And I am author of this toga'd tribune on my aproned lap, who plays his part to an audience of two, repeating my words.



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