|National Poetry Month No. 2: Philip Larkin - Next, Please
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
Philip Larkin - Next, Please (from The Less Deceived)
Always too eager for the future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say.
Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear,
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!
Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks
Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked
Each rope distinct,
Flagged, and the figurehead with golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors, it's
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last
We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.
But we are wrong:
Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.
I love this poem because it reminds me to value my present situation, which is one of contentment, privilege and a good deal of flexibility and freedom. It reminds me that I'm in this situation largely through the making of conscious choices, and that I must keep making those choices to remain there. It reminds me of the responsibility for my actions and achievements, as well as my miseries and mistakes, that I take upon myself by choosing to be an atheist. It fills me with fierce joy and galvanizes me to complete the tasks I set for myself. My black ship approaches. I hope she's still a long way off, but it's impossible to judge the distance from this perspective. I want to be ready for her with maximal satisfaction and minimal regret, whenever she arrives.