Saturday, September 09, 2006

Update on Neighbors; Poem by Larkin

It's the weekend, when most people have more things to do than sit at their CDT and moon.

Sometimes the life of the mind supersedes reality. Reality has a habit of hauling you to jail for all those unpaid parking tickets. Reality is merciless and especially so to dreamy poets. Anyone who puts poetry before reality is sure to experience material setbacks. Then the thrill of making insurance payments can't hold a candle to a good poem. We should be forgiven for being distracted, and not just by poetry but by the wonders that trump poetry.

One such experience was when I saw my first and only snowbow. I don't know what else to call it. South of here, at Manchester Beach, in October of 2003, it was snowing lightly. The sea was drenched in moonlight through the haze. And I saw a snowbow, arched over the sea in a light gray, like a colorless rainbow in a world of black-and-white. This is the kind of wonder that poetry usually fails; I tried but abandoned any attempt to do it justice in verse. It's one of those "you had to be there" things. But oh, what a wonder!


My neighbors were released yesterday. After they had taken a bus to the nearest town, whom did they call for a ride home? That's right, Judas. Judas the inured. On the way home they gave me an earful of innocence. They have a court date in a week. It's a longshot, but maybe part of their story is the truth--that their last landlord was a crazywoman who told them she didn't want her stuff then sued them to get it back. My question is: How does a crazy person have the wherewithal to organize a suit, much less charges for an arrest? I'm going to try to weasel my way in as a spectator next week so I can hear the legal version of all this.

Have I made up for my "betrayal" by my continuing kindness?


Since I switched to beta out of necessity for my blog, I haven't been able to repair all the links I had formerly. So if any of you poets or manic-depressives (my people!) want to be listed here, please send me an e-mail.

I had planned to blog about my relapse in mood today, about the free-floating anxiety that's returned as well as the melancholic interruptions, but writing about things beside yourself is therapeutic in its own right, so why should I revisit the symptoms I have heretofore described in detail?

Today I added Jane Kenyon and Philip Larkin to my links, two poets I'm very fond of. Below is a poem by Larkin that always blows me away. What sympathy this tippling librarian, a skeptic, had for an experience of faith he would never seriously consider. If I had to pick ten poems I wish I'd written, this would be one.

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.

--Philip Larkin

Isn't it amazing? The empathy of this heavy-drinking, agnostic librarian. Forget what anyone told you about Larkin; I consider him one of the major poets of the last century. I think he forms a bridge from the intellectual formalism of Auden to the dawn of the "Confessional" poets.

At 1.5 kilorats,

Thine in Truth and Art,



  1. Anonymous5:30 PM PDT


    I admire Larkin's maturity of spirit. He offers nothing. No Workers' Paradise, no heavenly reward, no handshake at the end. There's no yearning after a sickly sweet dessert; to me, the essence of human dignity and courage.


  2. Yeah, but was he happy? I think we must believe in something greater than ourselves to have a purpose, something we all need, while happiness is an occasional side benefit. It's not just Larkin's empathy that slays me, it's his craft as well.

  3. Thanks for updating us on your neighbors. I follow this story with great interest. Wonder if it will make its way into your poetry at some point...?

    The Larkin poem...I am jealous.

  4. Twitchy, I want you and all to know that my beta blog doesn't allow me to post at non-beta blogs, though they promise that will be fixed soon. It's not that I haven't tried!

  5. Anonymous6:07 AM PDT

    well I'm a heavy drinking (all relative I guess) agnostic librarian too -- but it hasn't made my poetry any better.


  6. LOL! Jim, send me the link to your blog, please.

  7. Anonymous2:00 PM PDT


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