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
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
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
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
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


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


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


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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