The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
The British poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985), who graduated from Oxford with honors in 1943, worked for over forty years as a librarian, and published only four slim volumes of poetry, not more than a hundred poems in all.
Upon the suicide deaths six months apart by two of my neighbors -- a couple, one of whom was suffering from terminal lung disease -- I typed this poem up, encased it in a plastic sheet cover, and tacked it to a fenceboard in their beautiful front garden adjacent to the sidewalk on our urban street. It flapped in the wind, was rained upon, grew moldy inside its sheer sheath. It stood sentry before their vacant house for most of a year. I don't know what happened to it in the end, but it served as a reminder to all of us of the fragility of life, and of love.