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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Four Poems

By Philip Larkin (1922-1985).


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.


A stationary sense . . . as, I suppose,
I shall have, till my single body grows
          Inaccurate, tired;
Then I shall start to feel the backward pull
Take over, sickening and masterful—
          Some say, desired.

And this must be the prime of life . . . I blink,
As if at pain; for it is pain, to think
          This pantomime
Of compensating act and counter-act,
Defeat and counterfeit, makes up, in fact,
          My ablest time.

To Failure

You do not come dramatically, with dragons
That rear up with my life between their paws
And dash me butchered down beside the wagons,
The horses panicking; nor as a clause
Clearly set out to warn what can be lost,
What out-of-pocket charges must be borne,
Expenses met; nor as a draughty ghost
That’s seen, some mornings, running down a lawn.

It is these sunless afternoons, I find,
Install you at my elbow like a bore.
The chestnut trees are caked with silence. I’m
Aware the days pass quicker than before,
Smell staler too. And once they fall behind
They look like ruin. You have been here some time.

Faith Healing

Slowly the women file to where he stands
Upright in rimless glasses, silver hair,
Dark suit, white collar. Stewards tirelessly
Persuade them onwards to his voice and hands,
Within whose warm spring rain of loving care
Each dwells some twenty seconds. Now, dear child,
What’s wrong
, the deep American voice demands,
And, scarcely pausing, goes into a prayer
Directing God about this eye, that knee.
Their heads are clasped abruptly; then, exiled

Like losing thoughts, they go in silence; some
Sheepishly stray, not back into their lives
Just yet; but some stay stiff, twitching and loud
With deep hoarse tears, as if a kind of dumb
And idiot child within them still survives
To re-awake at kindness, thinking a voice
At last calls them alone, that hands have come
To lift and lighten; and such joy arrives
Their thick tongues blort, their eyes squeeze grief, a crowd
Of huge unheard answers jam and rejoice —

What’s wrong! Moustached in flowered frocks they shake:
By now, all’s wrong. In everyone there sleeps
A sense of life lived according to love.
To some it means the difference they could make
By loving others, but across most it sweeps
As all they might have done had they been loved.
That nothing cures. An immense slackening ache,
As when, thawing, the rigid landscape weeps,
Spreads slowly through them—that, and the voice above
Saying Dear child, and all time has disproved.


Ray's Cowboy said...

Interesting peoms here. DID you write them?

Russ Manley said...

No, they are by Philip Larkin, see link at the top of the post.

dave said...

Hot studs, the latest weather, the best political updates, and gorgeous poetry - that's why we keep coming back, Russ.

Russ Manley said...

One-stop service, that's me. Fill your tank, mister?

Appreciate ya, dave.

dave said...

BTW do you know the poems of Wendell Berry?

Russ Manley said...

Unfortunately, no, but I see by his Wikipedia entry that he has some good things to say.

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