The Prophetic Book

Craig Raine

I will give you the world,
the world we are given:
the turban in a tangerine,
a snooker table, say,
with six suspensory bandages,
the lemon squeezer
in the men’s urinal.

You will need to know
the names of stone:
Taynton, Clipsham, Anstrude, Besace,
Headington, Wheatley, Perou,
and then Savonnières Courteraie
which is quarried at Meuse.
Sweet shades of chamois leather.

The passionate kiss
of sellotape, a sofa
with its four cedillas,
the ripple of a running-track,
pincushion harbours, starfish
strong as a tongue
will pleasure you.

Will pleasure you as much
as the sight of a steamroller
seen as a scarab beetle,
or the beach as a ballroom
dancing with steps,
or a bather testing the sea
like a ballerina.

I will bring you the beauty of facts:
Southdown, Dalesbred, Dartmoor,
Derbyshire Gritstone, Bluefaced Leicester,
Herdwick, Hill Radnor, Devon Longwool,
Beulah Speckled-Face, Oxford Down,
Welsh Mountain, North Country Cheviot,
do not exhaust the names of our sheep.

There is so much to celebrate:
the fine rain making midges
on a pool, the appalled moon,
and the crescent moon at morning
which fades like fat
in a frying-pan, the frail
unfocused greens of spring.

You will see the pelting rain
of string in Kentish hopfields
when the weather is clear,
enjoy the sound of squeaky shoes
when doves are beating overhead,
find out flamingoes
with polio legs, elephants

with laddered trunks.
I give you the cracked light
in a goose’s quill,
like frozen vodka,
a hunter’s mane plaited
into peonies, swallows
in their evening dress
performing like Fred Astaire.

There are tiddlywinks
of light in the summer woods.
Play with them. The ironing-board
has permanent lumbago. Pity it.
Pity the man on his motorbike
stamping his foot
and roaring with temper.

Fly in aeroplanes and see
the speedboat like a shooting star
as if someone had struck a match,
the car-park’s pharmacy of ampules,
the reef knot on a motorway,
the marquetry of fields,
a golf-course appliquéd with bunkers.

I will give you what is here:
a thousand kinds of bread,
each with a shape and name,
happiness and its haemorrhage,
the homesick hardware store
which can only say home,
Goethe and the gift of death.

Maze of entrails. Solid heart.
Drinker of urine. Channel swimmer
with tiny goggles of flesh.
Penis threaded like a grub
or folded for a clitoris.
Anus plugged with liquorice.
Endive and coral bronchial tree.

Overlapping skull plates.
Mollusc and master yogi,
standing on your head
with ankles crossed,
your horses are waiting
by the fringe of the weir,
cleft like a broad bean with black.

Your train is leaving the station
like a labrador scratching at fleas.
The ticket collector
stands in confetti.
I give you this prophetic book,
this sampler of life
which will take you a lifetime to read.