Poems by Philip Larkin
Once i am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting seats and stone
and little books; sprawlings of flowers cut
For Sunday brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense musty unignorable silence
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless I take off
My cylce-clips in awkward revrence
Move forward run my hand around the font.
From where i stand the roof looks almost new--
Cleaned or restored? someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern I peruse a few
hectoring large-scale verses and pronouce
Here endeth much more loudly than I'd meant
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book donate an Irish sixpence
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.
Yet stop I did: in fact I often do
And always end much at a loss like this
Wondering what to look for; wondering too
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show
Their parchment plate and pyx in locked cases
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?
Or after dark will dubious women come
To make their children touvh a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games in riddles seemingly at random;
But superstition like belief must die
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass weedy pavement brambles butress sky.
A shape less recognisable each week
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last the very last to seek
This place for whta it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber randy for antique
Or Christmas-addict counting on a whiff
Of grown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative
Bored uninformed knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation--marriage and birth
And death and thoughts of these--for which was built
This special shell? For though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth
It pleases me to stand in silence here;
A serious house on serious earth it is
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet
Are recognisd and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious
And gravitating with it to this ground
Which he once heard was proper to grow wise in
If only that so many dead lie round.
Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park
The crowns of hats the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August bank Holiday lark;
And the shut shops the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds
The farthings and sovereigns
Adn dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist and the pubs
Wide open all day;
And the countryside ont caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat's restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses
The dust behind limousines;
Never such innocence
Never before or since
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a littlewhile longer:
Never such innocence again.
Talking in Bed
Talking in bed ought ot be easiest
Lying together there goes back so far
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside the wind's incomplete unrest
builds and disperses clouds about the sky.
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind
Or ont untrue and not unkind.
Closed like confessionals, they thread
Loud noons of cities, giving back
None of the glances they absorb.
Light glossy grey, arms on a plaque,
They come to rest at any kerb:
All streets in time are visited.
Then children strewn on steps or road,
Or women coming from the shops
Past smells of different dinners, see
A wild white face that overtops
Red stretcher-blankets momently
As it is carried in and stowed,
And sense the solving emptiness
That lies just under all we do,
And for a second get it whole,
So permanent and blank and true.
The fastened doors recede. Poor soul,
They whisper at their own distress;
For borne away in deadened air
May go the sudden shut of loss
Round something nearly at an end,
And what cohered in it across
The years, the unique random blend
Of families and fashions, there
At last begin to loosen. Far
From the exchange of love to lie
Unreachable insided a room
The trafic parts to let go by
Brings closer what is left to come,
And dulls to distance all we are.
when I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
taking pills or wearing a diaphragm
I know this is paradise
Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives--
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester
And everyone young going down the long slide
To happiness endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me forty years back
An thought That'll be the life;
No God any more or sweating in the dark
About hell and that or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long side
Like free bloody birds. And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass
And beyond it the deep blue air that shows
Nothing and is nowhere and is endless.
On the day of the explosion
Shadows pointed towards the pithead:
In thesun the slagheap slept.
Down the lane came men in pitboots
Coughing oath-edged talk and pipe-smoke
Shouldering off the freshened silence.
One chased after rabbits; lost them;
Came back with a nest of lark's eggs;
Showed them; lodged them in the grasses.
SO they passed in beards and moleskins
Fathers brothers nicknames laughter
Through the tall gates standing open.
At noon there came a tremor; cows
Stopped chewing for a second; sun
Scarfed as in a heat-haze dimmed.
The dead go on before us they
Are sitting in God's house in comfort
We shall see them face to face--
plian as lettering in the chapels
It was said and for a second
Wives saw men of the explosion
Larger than in life they managed--
Gold as on a coin or walking
Somehow from the sun towards them
One showing the eggs unbroken.