Such absences!


Rain patters on a sea that tilts and sighs.
Fast-running floors, collapsing into hollows,
Tower suddenly, spray-haired. Contrariwise,
A wave drops like a wall: another follows,
Wilting and scrambling, tirelessly at play
Where there are no ships and no shallows.

Above the sea, the yet more shoreless day,
Riddled by wind, trails lit-up galleries:
They shift to giant ribbing, sift away.

Such attics cleared of me! Such absences!

-Philip Larkin

Andrew Swarbrick of the Philip Larkin Society tells us:

“Larkin claimed a special affection for ‘Absences’, perhaps because he knew that in matter and manner it works in ways which might take his readers, and himself, slightly by surprise: ‘I fancy it sounds like a different, better poet than myself,’ he wrote of it. ‘Absences’ was one of the poems from The Less Deceived that we O level schoolboys of the early 1970s didn’t much bother with; not when there were so many other poems which seeemed to say so much more. Now, the poem’s not-saying, the absorption in emptiness, the thrill of self-forgetting seem more fundamental to Larkin’s imagination as a kind of half-submerged, almost-secret longing.”

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