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Best Famous Craig Raine Poems

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by Craig Raine | |

City Gent

 On my desk, a set of labels
or a synopsis of leeks,
blanched by the sun
and trailing their roots

like a watering can.
Beyond and below, diminished by distance, a taxi shivers at the lights: a shining moorhen with an orange nodule set over the beak, taking a passenger under its wing.
I turn away, confront the cuckold hatstand at bay in the corner, and eavesdrop (bless you!) on a hay-fever of brakes.
My Caran d'Ache are sharp as the tips of an iris and the four-tier file is spotted with rust: a study of plaice by a Japanese master, ochres exquisitely bled.
Instead of office work, I fish for complements and sport a pencil behind each ear, a bit of a devil, or trap the telephone awkwardly under my chin like Richard Crookback, crying, A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! but only to myself, ironically: the tube is semi-stiff with stallion whangs, the chairman's Mercedes has windscreen wipers like a bird's broken tongue, and I am perfectly happy to see your head, quick round the door like a dryad, as I pretend to be Ovid in exile, composing Tristia and sad for the shining, the missed, the muscular beach.


by Craig Raine | |

In Modern Dress

 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.


by Craig Raine | |

The Onion Memory

 Divorced, but friends again at last,
we walk old ground together
in bright blue uncomplicated weather.
We laugh and pause to hack to bits these tiny dinosaurs, prehistoric, crenelated, cast between the tractor ruts in mud.
On the green, a junior Douglas Fairbanks, swinging on the chestnut's unlit chandelier, defies the corporation spears-- a single rank around the bole, rusty with blood.
Green, tacky phalluses curve up, romance A gust--the old flag blazes on its pole.
In the village bakery the pastry babies pass from milky slump to crusty cadaver, from crib to coffin--without palaver.
All's over in a flash, too silently.
.
.
Tonight the arum lilies fold back napkins monogrammed in gold, crisp and laundered fresh.
Those crustaceous gladioli, on the sly, reveal the crimson flower-flesh inside their emerald armor plate.
The uncooked herrings blink a tearful eye.
The candles palpitate.
The Oistrakhs bow and scrape in evening dress, on Emi-tape.
Outside the trees are bending over backwards to please the wind : the shining sword grass flattens on its belly.
The white-thorn's frillies offer no resistance.
In the fridge, a heart-shaped jelly strives to keep a sense of balance.
I slice up the onions.
You sew up a dress.
This is the quiet echo--flesh-- white muscle on white muscle, intimately folded skin, finished with a satin rustle.
One button only to undo, sewn up with shabby thread.
It is the onion, memory, that makes me cry.
Because there's everything and nothing to be said, the clock with hands held up before its face, stammers softly on, trying to complete a phrase-- while we, together and apart, repeat unfinished festures got by heart.
And afterwards, I blunder with the washing on the line-- headless torsos, faceless lovers, friends of mine.


by Craig Raine | |

An Attempt At Jealousy

 So how is life with your new bloke?
Simpler, I bet.
Just one stroke of his quivering oar and the skin of the Thames goes into a spin, eh? How is life with an oarsman? Better? More in--out? Athletic? Wetter? When you hear the moan of the rowlocks, do you urge him on like a cox? Tell me, is he bright enough to find that memo-pad you call a mind? Or has he contrived to bring you out-- given you an in-tray and an out? How did I ever fall for a paper-clip? How could I ever listen to office gossip even in bed and find it so intelligent? Was is straight biological bent? I suppose you go jogging together? Tackle the Ridgeway in nasty weather? Face force 55 gales and chat about prep or how you bested that Birmingham rep? He must be mad with excitement.
So must you.
What an incitement to lust all those press-ups must be.
Or is it just the same? PE? Tell me, I'm curious.
Is it fun being in love with just anyone? How do you remember his face if you meet in a public place? Perhaps you know him by his shoes? Or do you sometimes choose another pinstriped clone by accident and drag that home instead? From what you say, he's perfect.
For a Chekhov play.
Tall and dark and brightly dim, Kulygin's part was made for him.
Imagine your life with a 'beak'.
Week after week after week like homework or detention; all that standing to attention whenever his colleagues drop in for a spot of what's-your-toxin.
Speech Day, matron, tuck-shop, Christ, you'll find school fees are over-priced and leave, but not come back to me.
You've done your bit for poetry.
Words, or deeds? You'll stick to youth.
I'm a stickler for the truth-- which makes me wonder what it was I loved you for.
Tell me, because now I feel nothing--except regret.
What is it, love, I need to forget?


by Craig Raine | |

Dandelions

 'and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence'
 -- George Eliot, Middlemarch


Dead dandelions, bald as drumsticks,
swaying by the roadside

like Hare Krishna pilgrims
bowing to the Juggernaut.
They have given up everything.
Gold gone and their silver gone, humbled with dust, hollow, their milky bodies tan to the colour of annas.
The wind changes their identity: slender Giacomettis, Doré's convicts, Rodin's burghers of Calais with five bowed heads and the weight of serrated keys .
.
.
They wither into mystery, waiting to find out why they are, patiently, before nirvana when the rain comes down like vitriol.


by Craig Raine | |

Nature Study

 (for Rona, Jeremy, Sam & Grace)

All the lizards are asleep--
perched pagodas with tiny triangular tiles,
each milky lid a steamed-up window.
Inside, the heart repeats itself like a sleepy gong, summoning nothing to nothing.
In winter time, the zoo reverts to metaphor, God's poetry of boredom: the cobra knits her Fair-Isle skin, rattlers titter over the same joke.
All of them endlessly finish spaghetti.
The python runs down like a spring, and time stops on some ancient Sabbath.
Pythagorean bees are shut inside the hive, which hymns and hums like Sunday chapel-- drowsy thoughts in a wrinkled brain.
The fire's gone out-- crocodiles lie like wet beams, cross-hatched by flames that no one can remember.
Grasshoppers shiver, chafe their limbs and try to keep warm, crouching on their marks perpetually.
The African cricket is trussed like a cold chicken: the sneeze of movement returns it to the same position, in the same body.
There is no change.
The rumple-headed lion has nowhere to go and snoozes in his grimy combinations.
A chaise lounge with missing castors, the walrus is stuck forever on his rock.
Sleepily, the seals play crib, scoring on their upper lips.
The chimps kill fleas and time, sewing nothing to nothing Five o'clock--perhaps.
Vultures in their shabby Sunday suits fidget with broken umbrellas, while the ape beats his breast and yodels out repentance.
Their feet are an awful dream of bunions-- but the buffalo's brazil nut bugle-horns can never sound reveille.


by Craig Raine | |

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

 Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings --

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.
I have never seen one fly, but sometimes they perch on the hand.
Mist is when the sky is tired of flight and rests its soft machine on ground: then the world is dim and bookish like engravings under tissue paper.
Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.
Model T is a room with the lock inside -- a key is turned to free the world for movement, so quick there is a film to watch for anything missed.
But time is tied to the wrist or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.
In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps, that snores when you pick it up.
If the ghost cries, they carry it to their lips and soothe it to sleep with sounds.
And yet they wake it up deliberately, by tickling with a finger.
Only the young are allowed to suffer openly.
Adults go to a punishment room with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises alone.
No one is exempt and everyone's pain has a different smell.
At night when all the colours die, they hide in pairs and read about themselves -- in colour, with their eyelids shut.


by Craig Raine | |

In The Kalahari Desert

 The sun rose like a tarnished
looking-glass to catch the sun

and flash His hot message
at the missionaries below--

Isabella and the Rev.
Roger Price, and the Helmores with a broken axle left, two days behind, at Fever Ponds.
The wilderness was full of home: a glinting beetle on its back struggled like an orchestra with Beethoven.
The Hallé, Isabella thought and hummed.
Makololo, their Zulu guide, puzzled out the Bible, replacing words he didn't know with Manchester.
Spikenard, alabaster, Leviticus, were Manchester and Manchester.
His head reminded Mrs.
Price of her old pomander stuck with cloves, forgotten in some pungent tallboy.
The dogs drank under the wagon with a far away clip-clopping sound, and Roger spat into the fire, leaned back and watched his phlegm like a Welsh rarebit bubbling on the brands.
.
.
When Baby died, they sewed her in a scrap of carpet and prayed, with milk still darkening Isabella's grubby button-through.
Makololo was sick next day and still the Helmores didn't come.
The outspanned oxen moved away at night in search of water, were caught and goaded on to Matabele water-hole-- nothing but a dark stain on the sand.
Makololo drank vinegar and died.
Back they turned for Fever Ponds and found the Helmores on the way.
.
.
Until they got within a hundred yards, the vultures bobbed and trampolined around the bodies, then swirled a mile above their heads like scalded tea leaves.
The Prices buried everything-- all the tattered clothes and flesh, Mrs.
Helmore's bright chains of hair, were wrapped in bits of calico then given to the sliding sand.
'In the beginning was the Word'-- Roger read from Helmore's Bible found open at St.
John.
Isabella moved her lips, 'The Word was Manchester.
' Shhh, shhh, the shovel said.
Shhh.
.
.