In and Out

In and Out
by Philip Larkin

Raking a fire, November morning, out in the garden,
Fly from the embers, skirling upwards, black scraps of paper;
Yesterday’s news.
Today the news is fog has invaded, year has hardened.

Along the saltings, commas that rise and spatter a vast
Grey nowhere are suddenly birds; seen, they settle
Beakily, you think,
Embarrassed. Caught disturbing the year’s first frost.

Which is, after all, only a warning. Later it will be harder.

But, for the moment, riding past backs of houses,
How comforting to see, saffron in each dark block,
One lighted window.
Reliable men live there, pursuing reliable courses

Which will take them, you can be sure, out from the unimportant
Secrets of half-awake bedrooms, knickers, dropped socks, and turning
Away from the light
With luxurious grumbles, wives who’ve forgotten they met,

Into this now. Before starting, on bikes with boxes
Wingnutted onto carriers, they’ll pause and take the perk
Mortgaged days earn:
A moment to rake the roundel of embers, find an astonishing glow.

It has lasted, against the odds, all the time they slept.

Yesterday’s news was bad: today’s will be much better.
Left out in the gathering frost, the fire kept in.
It took so little.
Quick, rake it together. Glittering nights are coming

And longer ones, too, that will test banked timbers and quell
Even the cheekiest birds until well past first light.
Simple lessons, then.
Learn to be still, and moving. There you are out, and in.

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