Today for my birthday I wanted to give you all this poem by Philip Larkin (From Collected Poems, which you should buy if you like poetry at all.); and this one by Christian Barter (From The Singers I Prefer, which you also should buy.), because the Larkin poem always reminds me of it; and this last one, which Will sent me a long time ago, just because.
Whenever Will had a high fever I would think about the Barter poem, and about how when I first sent it to Will so many years ago he wrote back immediately that it had made him cry---such a perfect description.
They are long---sorry. If you don't like poetry don't read them, but the Larkin poem especially, I bet, will haunt you if you do. I think of it almost daily, the perfect cautionary tale.
by Philip Larkin
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.
by Christian Barter
I know a woman who calls me
every week or so when she has something
on her mind and starts by saying,
"I have something to talk about
but let's start by talking about
something else." It helps her get it out.
So I ask her how she is and she says
okay and tells me about some poet
or politician she's met and how
he wasn't at all what she expected
or about the DC weather,
the traffic jams, the dirty Metro.
Sometimes she never gets around to her point
at all, but ends by saying,
"Now I don't want to talk about it
anymore." Last week I had a fever
for four days and the world
took on a kind of flickering darkness—
it seemed so thin, so insubstantial,
not the kind of place a person could live.
This guy who came to the card game
last night, he says he dreams
of a dead friend all the time,
this friend walks out of a black alley,
walks always in a kind of shadow.
I asked him what it's like to be dead,
the guy said, fumbling a face-down card,
and he said it's not a place, heaven,
it's a feeling, the feeling of knowing
everything you never knew. Then the friend
told him one of the numbers to play
this week in Megabucks. Sometimes, though,
she does get around to what's on her mind—
a sadness for her little sister, killed
in a wreck, or a fear that we
won't see each other again, won't ever
feel whatever that was we felt when we
were making love. I don't know if we will.
I don't know if she will ever see
her little sister again except in dreams,
which is somewhere, I guess.
The number was eight.
[Anonymous poem found in Laundromat]
By accident, you put
Your money in my
By accident, I put
My money in another
On purpose, I put
Your clothes in the
Empty machine full
Of water and no
It was lonely.