Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Poet: Philip Larkin

The Mower

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.


  1. That's a beautiful thing to do. But maybe it's in life that we should pin our poem to the wall. Let our lives not finish with 'if only'.

    Bisou, Cro.

  2. Cro:

    "But maybe it's in life that we should pin our poem to the wall."

    You are completely right on that one. Thanks for the reminder.

    Perhaps I'll do a more permanent installation of this poem in my new garden -- visible to passers-by -- where I now live.

  3. oh, nourishing post!
    thank you...

  4. thank you so much, T., and cro, too...these are such good discussions/poems and important pathways of thought.

  5. Elegant and yet plain. How does Larkin do it?!

    Then there are losses, failures, maulings we are unaware of.

  6. I'm surprised he wrote so little T. He was astonishing. I am thrilled by your courage - to post a poem like this and let the weather do its thing. Bravo. Thank you.

  7. This post captured exactly my mood on this very Tuesday.

    Love the header and all that delicious green. Google reader is great but I miss seeing all this beauty!

  8. I don't believe I've read him, so thank you for posting this. It is simple and elegant and dear in its humanity. Sorry to hear about your neighbors -- life is so full of pain!! It's doubly important we have writers and artists who help translate the world and help us find our way through. You, my dear, are one of those guides.

    Lovely post.