Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground.
In the hollows of afternoons
Young mothers assemble
At swing and sandpit
Setting free their children.
Behind them, at intervals,
Stand husbands in skilled trades,
An estateful of washing,
And the albums, lettered
Our Wedding, lying
Near the television:
Before them, the wind
Is ruining their courting-places
That are still courting-places
(But the lovers are all in school),
And their children, so intent on
Finding more unripe acorns,
Expect to be taken home.
Their beauty has thickened.
Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.
Philip Larkin, from The Whitsun Weddings
So the other night Mr Coffee and I watched Robert Webb on BBC Four talking about poetry, and when I wasn't thinking moronic thoughts like 'Doesn't he have a bouncy walk?' and bemoaning the fact that neither Limecat nor I would probably get the chance now to marry his mate, I was remembering how when I was a student I really didn't like TS Eliot, who was the main focus of the programme, and how much I did so very, very much love Philip Larkin.
Webb read out Afternoons at one point, which had me dutifully digging out Whitsun Weddings and taking it with me to read for the afternoon. Tragically, ironically, I reacquainted myself with this poem on an Autumn afternoon, in a playground.
I don't know, if I'm honest, what a 19 year old feminist was doing falling in love with Larkin anyway. Pessimistic, misogynist, constantly bleating on about his lack of success with women whilst carrying on several affairs.
But beautiful. The technical brilliance. The -ing, -ing, -ing, forcing us on through time. And it didn't occur to me at 19 quite how patronising he was. Estates, Philip? What did you know of those, exactly?
Whether I wish now to address the issue of my own thickened beauty, I am deeply unsure.
If you are ever in need of a poem to get you through the afternoon, you won't be able to do much better than Nina Cassian's Post Meridian, to be found in Life Sentence. It's unbelievably good, and it doesn't suggest that your life is consumed with laundry, which is always a plus.
About ten years ago I drove Nina Cassian around for the day in my car to see the Lakes, before hearing her read this poem at a poetry reading. I remembered thinking at the time that I didn't need to faff about climbing any mountains or seeing the Grand Canyon or anything now, because that was about as good a life experience as I could ever get.
(Anyway, if this is all too much for you, watch this instead. I know Limecat will be doing.)