Those No-Doubt-About-It Infidelity Blues

Craig Raine

Like a throw of shot silk,
its blue brilliance
calmed by the iron,
completed,
so you can clearly see
the alternative versions.

This is the first thing,
The first thing you feel
When you happen to find
That the worst thing,
The worst thing that could happen
Has happened for real.

And everything adds up to a pattern,
So that it’s certain now,
As if there’s somehow a curtain
Drawn back in your mind.

Like someone blind
seeing the sunlight, dazed
by daylight and all the colours
hidden in water
transparent out of the tap,
invisible to ordinary seers.

That time my Pa shaved off his beard
The man we knew just disappeared,
Unrecognisably himself,
Which was truly false and falsely weird.

Like understanding all ‘fortie partes’,
all eight choirs, of Spem in Alium,
a mirage of ‘Mr Tallys’,
wave after overlapping wave,
understanding at last the palimpsest sea,
even down to the discords.

This is the first thing,
The first thing you feel
When you happen to find
That the worst thing,
The worst thing that could happen,
Has happened for real.

And every thing adds up to a pattern,
So that it’s certain now,
As if there’s somehow a curtain
Drawn back in your mind.

Like the Arrivals and Departures board:
that sudden solitaire sequence,
that drop-down cascade,
revolving itself, resolving itself,
arriving at certainty,
at bottom.

That time my Pa shaved off his beard
The man we knew just disappeared,
Unrecognisably himself,
Which was truly false and falsely weird.

Like a tense tangle of twine
suddenly simplified, submissive
to the perfect pull,
fluent, flowing, continuous,
leading you straight to the heart
of your labyrinth.

This is the first thing,
The first thing you feel
When you happen to find
That the worst thing,
The worst thing that could happen,
Has happened for real.

And every thing adds up to a pattern,
So that it’s certain now,
As if there’s somehow a curtain
Drawn back in your mind.

Like a woman reaching her climax
after an incoherent journey
through unreliable, dirty terrain:
that clench of recognition
and the tingle of the aftershock.
Every detour was leading to this.

That time my Pa shaved off his beard
The man we knew just disappeared,
Unrecognisably himself,
Which was truly false and falsely weird.

This is the first thing,
The first thing you feel
When you happen to find
That the worst thing,
The worst thing that could happen,
Has happened for real
And everything adds up to a pattern,
So that it’s certain now,
As if there’s somehow a curtain
Drawn back in your mind.

Like falling in love
at first sight, first sight
invested with second sight,
our irresistible, inevitable,
elective affinity,
the perfect chemistry of us.