A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1979)

By Craig Raine

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings

and some are treasured for their markings –

they cause the eyes to melt

or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but

sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight

and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish

like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.

It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside –

a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film

to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist

or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,

that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it

to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up

deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer

openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.

They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt

and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,

they hide in pairs

and read about themselves –

in colour, with their eyelids shut.

A Martian sends a postcard homeDr. Bruce Meyer in his 1996 CBC series “Poetry as Life” with Michael Enright, cites “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home” as an interesting example of the use of “reverse metaphor.”

Another early reminder that we’ll be discussing the use of metaphor in poetry on November 24.

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