Thursday, September 24, 2009

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.

6 comments:

  1. Its strange the way things that are ordinary to us are rendered in un-ordinary ways. It became like a game to see how many things I could recognize from their descriptions: "read about themselves in color with their eyes shut" is our eyes moving when we dream. The haunted apparatus and the ghost seems to be a telephone. "But time is tied to the wrist
    or kept in a box, ticking with impatience" is a wristwatch or a clock.

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  2. I liked this poem - I tried to see what they were talking of failed on most of them but failed - But I like the rhythm

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  3. I try to imagine myself on a strange planet trying to describe things about a place I know nothing about on a post card home. Everything from nature to technology would be different and alien to me, what speech would I use? We are in fact aliens to our own world, while thinking about the first televisions, telephones and other things we now take for granted. Everything is new and wonderfully inexplicabe to us at least once.

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  4. I like the way that this poem is written. It gives imagery of nature things and yet they seem different is some way. For example, "Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
    and some are treasured for their markings." Call me dumb, but I have never heard of Caxtons birds, that's new for me. Another example, would be "Model T is a room with the lock inside - a key is turned to free the world" what is this trying to say, doesn't every car has its lock inside?! There was one line that I did not like: "Only the young are allowed to suffer openly. Adults go to a punishment room with water but nothing to eat." This is unfair! For me, trying to imagine all of the poem is hard because in some parts it's painful to imagine.

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    Replies
    1. William Caxton was the first English printer back in the day, and so that was a very subtle nod at history of books, so the martian is referencing to books in this. The wings are the pages and the markings the words on the pages.

      By the lock in the Model T, the martian is talking about the ignition slot in the car, which when you turn it, turns on the car and lets you travel much more easily, which is what the martian is saying by "a key turned to free the world"

      There is nothing to dislike about the line you quote! :)

      It's a reference to a bathroom, where as adults go to the bathroom to do their business, babies go to the bathroom in their diapers, which is what the martian means. And there is, of course, no food in the bathroom and a LOT of water!

      I know this is a really, REALLY old post I'm replying to, but I thought I'd clear that up for you because I looove this poem. Hope it helped!

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  5. The contrast and tone used in this poem was great. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the poem but at the same time it was very creative. My imagination was fully utilized.

    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.

    Loved the description of mist. awwww

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