by Craig Raine
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.
Craig Raine was born in 1944 at Shildon, Co. Durham. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, and was a college Lecturer at Oxford for a number of years. He has worked as a free-lance journalist and has been books editor of The New Review, editor of Quarto, and poetry editor of The New Statesman. He is married and has two children and is presently an editor at Faber and Faber, which will publish his next book, Rich. (1983)