When I see a couple of kids
And guess he's fucking her and she's
taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives -
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds. And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Philip Larkin

(this is the eponymous poem from his marvellous last collection, published in 1974. The poem was written in '67)

All my favourite poems and short stories seem to do this thing, which is often associated with Raymond Carver in particular: take an idea, run with it for a while, and then at the end make an imaginative leap to an apparently dissociated image or event, which is what really makes the thing a poem rather than a musing. Because the image he uses is very difficult to translate into a feeling - it has something to do with limitless possibilities and youth and hope and freshness, but it's pithier than this grasping approach to it, and it encompasses much more, as well. I like the sun-comprehending glass, and I like the birds/words rhyme, for some reason. (you can tell I'm an english student with insights like thoselast two, can't you?) The shift, too, from the arguably seedy, voyeuristic language of the first stanza to this extraordinary lyricism at the end is part of what makes it so successful. Anyway. Good, innit? Read it again.

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