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  1. Culture
4 February 2018

Part-Arc of a Rainbow

A new poem by Ruth Padel.

By Ruth Padel

As if you saw      

     driving back from a sprint to the supermarket
     to get your nearly       but not quite       dying mum
     a pack of squeegee sponges and a new
     washing-up brush       the old one is filthy   
     she can hardly see the sink any more                    

something you’ve never come across before
     the part-arc of a rainbow   
     slicing through a chink in metal cloud

and as you go 

      that stump of rainbow fades 
      but shreds of its hidden core       appear
           in other sectors of grey air
     like swamp-light       flashing out of
     and back into       the corner of your eye

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as if somewhere beyond all this heaviness

     there’s a whole skyful of neon 
     some wild fishnet pyre  
     of the spectrum       all the glittering hidden 
     wavelengths of memory       tangled as the ancient cottons
     in her long-abandoned sewing-casket     

it is a rainbow strip-tease

    you will never see the end        
    and because you’re on a curly country road    
    the angles keep shifting       you don’t know
    who or what is round the next bend      
    until you see the whole semi-circumference entire.

Ruth Padel is professor of poetry at King’s College London​. Her new collection, Emerald, will be published by Chatto & Windus in July

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This article appears in the 31 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Great Migration

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
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