Craig Raine **
The Buried Life: Two Recovered
'A cough shouldn't stop you smoking. You just need a bottle of Benylin.'
We were in The Pillars of Hercules, the pub more or less next door
to the offices of The New Review at 11 Greek Street. I wasn't smoking.
I had a cough.
The Bogart persona intensified. The operational side of Ian's mouth
spoke: 'What's Benylin? Benylin's the first drink of the day.'
I was Books Editor. The magazine was only just surviving. Ian's thick
hair had started to fall out in handfuls. Pure stress. We never mentioned
He rented a flat in Dean Street, over the Japanese Steak House. Maybe
I would like to use it some time, rather than get the milk train back
to Oxford? He didn't need it. All I had to do was ask for the keys.
The one time I stayed there, Paul Theroux's The Consul's File was
on the bedside table. Otherwise the place gave nothing away. It was
as unadorned and functional as a budget hotel room anywhere. In the
kitchenette, the handles on the cupboards and drawers were black bakelite
crescents. Not a single one was intact.
Before I got into bed I arranged my padded jacket over the pillow
In case it was ringworm, not stress after all.
At 4 a.m. I was woken by a machine outside breaking bottles for half
an hour. I went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Irritably going
to open a cupboard with my middle finger, I understood how the handles
came to be snapped in two. Thirst. The first drink of the day.
The magazine folded. His hair recovered. Ian recovered.
2. We were in The Pillars of Hercules.
Ian was at the bar, his back to me, buying the drinks. Just as he
was turning, I asked, 'How was your weekend with Matthew?' (His nine-year-old
son by his first marriage.)
He could hardly speak. His eyes were spangled with tears. 'Great.'
My own eyes filled. Then we recovered.
And that was exactly how the poems were supposed to work. The laconic
lifting into lyric. Tight-lipped. Vulnerable. Irresistible.