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.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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