The Vein

By Tom Raworth b. 1938 Tom Raworth

But I have been familiar with ruins too long to dislike desolation.      
(Lord Byron, November 1816) 

what happens in any
 
sovereign body is created
 
on the evidence of the last
 
head on its last lap
 
those of us watching
 
then, during the programme
 
see the die seem to be cast
 
to draw the teeth
 
of our first question
 
affecting essential interests
 
they and only they had
 
she was dealing with
 
an unworthy family
 
gathered for death
 
inconvenient location
 
gruesome tired mannerisms
 
a bit thick coming from her
 
losing the thread of argument
 
in a sinuous cartwheel
 
drained of what life
 
hurried out with a pushchair
 
unsparing he takes us
 
to the cabaret
 
into patterns and groups
 
contrived for distraction
 
more likely
 
to deepen withdrawal
 
such a decrease
 
in which women
 
had views diametrically opposed
 
soon changes his tune
 
howling
 
face to face
 
cruel for people
 
recoiling in horror
 
plastered indeed
 
by any form of social
 
charges and interest
 
it may be healthy
 
to change the tone
 
of administration
 
in growth dynamics
 
use of perspective
 
attachment to things
 
entail perpetual disruption
 
of what space is for
 
built up
 
in absence
 
transactions typically occur
 
under conditions of heightened
 
variations in taste
 
spaces, isolated thoughts
 
which his concept of beauty
 
distorts to represent
 
thinking and feeling life
 
he considers in particular
 
superimposed spatial images
 
accelerating production
 
of different times
 
to control the future
 
this book has been edited

to detect the note
 
of such preoccupations
 
blue evening light
 
desire out of stasis
 
for jobs
 
investment itself
 
ruthless traders
 
organising forces
 
unable to stop the drift
 
of imagination over materiality
 
form an autobiography
 
in fires of competition
 
only to emerge stronger
 
within this system of production
 
brought into our homes
 
which in turn form the basis
 
of generating and acquiring
 
aesthetic pleasure
 
conventional these days
 
cluttered with illusion
 
based on writing
 
remixed
 
to demolish any narrative
 
of the world within
 
no image concealed
 
from the realm of material
 
accumulation and circulation
 
in part as would be true
 
enduring time
 
by herself he touches her
 
surrounded by models
 
able to pass unrecognised
 
in the stream of money
 
implied by a photograph
 
where the sun never seen
 
can be constructed
 
crashing through layer after layer
 
on a depthless screen
 
with the requisite speed
 
somewhere behind us
 
thrown into the street
 
patiently to see
 
rotting pieces of car
 
buttons working backwards
 
against nerve junctions
 
tilt her head
 
towards her ankles
 
in the underground light
 
black fur gleamed
 
off the oil drum
 
searchers found
 
a delicate bubble of oil
 
sweeping through it
 
pure oxygen
 
dawn touched
 
at the corners
 
rose in flame
 
lengths of thin steel
 
drawn across dust
 
shifting in thick
 
time on
 
motions playing out
 
across from me
 
not in sequence
 
cut into the sides
 
of an extension run
 
below his eyes
 
were tombstones
 
ringed with razor-wire
 
he threaded
 
bright slashes of colour
 
through open
 
jolts of fear
 
measuring, calculating
 
shaking so hard
 
a lump of shadow
 
watching
 
turned from side to side
 
shielding us from the sun
 
pale green glass
 
frames disintegrating tarmac
 
down to the tunnel
 
of the corner of his eye
 
moving on
 
to some other
 
man for the moment
 
horizon of empty water
 
locking him away
 
inside and he wore
 
two pictograms
 
set in strange lines
 
invisible in air
 
energetically above them
 
heels and silk
 
scatter snow
 
in the middle of a room
 
swirling out of the mist
 
bright with arrangements
 
tainted too historically
 
he had forgotten
 
quite violent fights
 
listening
 
to the continuous pounding
 
of some other thought
 
looking at the surface
 
far away down
 
in a cloud of dust
 
tattered lace about her
 
she watched him calmly
 
bits of it he tore off
 
at the end of each meeting
 
seemed colour-coded
 
sparkling violently
 
tingling on his skin
 
holes turned round slowly
 
in brown earth
 
lined with age
 
he smelled burning
 
trees in darkness
 
a voice came
 
from an imaginary telephone
 
on the dashboard
 
shrink-wrapped packages
 
soft underfoot
 
glowed in the dark
 
blinds slanted to make
 
the match flame
 
blast across his face
 
snap shut
 
in the jungle
 
after the ones still alive
 
start confessing
 
flashbulbs go off
 
her hand flicked back and forth
 
over a section of floor
 
he had heard more
 
than every single word
 
from the once proud
 
ruins of arches
 
in one outstretched hand
 
an odd sensation
 
included balance
 
working to repair the damage
 
of triumph on his face
 
folded against the edge
 
of exhaust fumes
 
closing his lids
 
properly needed great care
 
she heard a rustle
 
little numbers
 
flew around trees
 
tumbled across a moonlit field
 
trying to reassemble
 
his head again
 
she blinked
 
some sort of code
 
subtle variations
 
in the colour of her eyes
 
a reliable testing ground
 
gardens inside shelters
 
shades patterning
 
an idealised culture
 
in one landscaped clump
 
stuffed full of shells
 
a version or remnant of something
 
under a different name
 
some crisis of identity
 
spanned the world
 
thought was the only thing
 
to come back to acting
 
beyond acoustics
 
even when dramatic
 
she always wore fancy dress
 
simply cut and held low
 
objects grouped together
 
confidently into fine jewellery
 
after the storm new scents
 
touched by salt spray
 
hardly dimmed the harsh light
 
he sometimes pulled at his hair
 
obsessed with finding the beautiful
 
curtain allowing him entry
 
never able to follow
 
the middle of night
 
downwards to find a runway
 
with deep sides
 
writhing under his fingers
 
personalities full of energy
 
order a series
 
of the same programme
 
cool for film
 
using this knowledge
 
machines talk to themselves
 
maintain a very persistent
 
buzzing as the signal
 
ends in a dramatic freeze
 
close to the border
 
on a street with a few orange trees

Tom Raworth, "The Vein" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Tom Raworth.  Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press, Ltd.

Source: Collected Poems (Carcanet Press Ltd, 2003)

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Poet Tom Raworth b. 1938

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, The Mind, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

Biography

Writer, artist, teacher, and publisher Tom Raworth was born in South London. He attended the University of Essex; in 1970, he earned an MA in the theory and practice of literary translation. As founder of Matrix Press and cofounder of Goliard Press, Raworth was instrumental in bringing an entire tradition of American poetry to English readers. Promoting the work of a number of poets associated with the Black Mountain School, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, The Mind, Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

POET’S REGION England

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