Gatwick

Craig Raine

I
Tom Stoppard sold his house in France: ‘I was sick
of spending so much time at Gatwick.’

II
At the UK Border,
I double
and treble
through the retractable
queuing barrier.

Now I have my passport splayed
at the requisite page.

She glances, she frowns,
she turns it upside down
so it can be read by a machine.
She stares at a screen.

And then she asks,
looking up from her desk:
‘Craig Raine the poet?’

We have less than half a minute.
‘I studied you. For my MA at uni.
I did an MA in poetry.
Now I’m in the immigration service.’

I want
to give her a kiss.
But I can’t.
Why is this
so marvellous?
So hysterical?

We are close. We are both grinning.
We have come
together by a miracle.
Two sinners simultaneously sinning.
In passport control. No shame.

III
She is maybe 22,
like a snake in the zoo,
shifting, tightening, dwindling,
stretching, lost in her Kindle.

I want to say,
I like your boots. The way
the laces criss-cross
under, without piercing the eye-holes’
white majolica gloss
rising like perfect bubbles.

I want to say, hey,
I like your moles.

Which you get from your father.

This family of Swedes
sit in different seats,
directly behind each other
on the Gatwick-Oxford bus.

I want to say I like your big bust.
Which you try to disguise with a scarf.
You’d like it smaller by half.

I want to say,
you’re so young today
it’s almost painful.
For both of us.

And slightly disdainful
to your grateful parents,
patient, tamed creatures.
But when you get old,
(gradually, without a fuss,
because it makes sense)
you will have the handsome features
of your mother.

(I choose to ignore
her mother’s pelvis, large bore,
and the two foot span
of her hefty can.
Which is older and wider,
and also lurking inside her.)

I can say these things, I say,
because I am a poet and getting old.

But of course, I can’t,
and I won’t. I’ll be silent.
Nothing said, but thought and told.