A Martian Sends a Postcard Home
Craig Raine, 1979
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 the ground:
then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.
Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the properites 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 Home – Analysis
Posted on April 6, 2011 by vincentmli
The poem A Martian Sends a Postcard Home by Craig Raine depicts exactly what the title says: a Martian sending a postcard home. However, we must take into consideration that the Martian is actually on Earth, sending a postcard back to his own home; therefore the descriptions of our everyday objects are depicted so bizarrely. Every detail alludes to items as well as actions seen on Earth. In the poem Raine illustrates several things from the Martian’s perspective: a book, fog, car, clock, telephone, bathroom, and dream. The author applies a very unique technique in describing all these things, he breaks down each object into unrecognisable parts and compares them to something similar. A book is illustrated and compared to a mechanical bird with many wings. The flapping wings of a bird imitates the turning pages of a book. Raine also says “some are treasured for their markings” referring to that fact that some books are cherished by individuals because of their “markings”, the words written in them. One final things the author does to compare a book to a bird is to remove certain qualities of a bird that don’t fit in the description of a book, such as flight, but also emphasize a similarity; a book sitting compared to a bird perching on someone’s hand. This kind of dismantling of objects and analysing them in a new perspective is done for every object Raine depicts. Another excellent example of this would be the author’s depiction of a car. The author says, “Model T is a room with a lock inside”, from an outside look, a car is nothing more than an enclosed space, exactly what a room is. Raine removes features of a room that don’t apply to a car, a room doesn’t lock from the inside but a car does. The ending of the poem is the most intriguing since it doesn’t depict anything tangible but rather the concept of dreaming or the action of sleeping. Raine states that “at night when all colours die, they hide in pairs and read about themselves — in colour, with their eyelids shut”. It is very clear in these last stanza’s Raine is illustrating a scene where two people are sleeping. The night is dark and no colour can be seen; but in our dreams, where we learn or “read” about ourselves, we see in colour. This is the only thing that the author doesn’t compare to another object but simply analyses what dreaming truly is, using the simplest of descriptions.
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