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.

Source and more info HERE


8 comments on “In and Out

  1. shoreacres says:

    This is wonderful. I just discovered Larkin last Christmas season, much to the amusement of my British poetry-loving friends.

    “Learn to be still, and moving” recalls some of Eliot, espcially:

    Time and the bell have buried the day,
    the black cloud carries the sun away.
    Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
    Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
    Clutch and cling?
    Fingers of yew be curled
    Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
    Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
    At the still point of the turning world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yes, I agree. If you followed the link you saw that this beautiful poem has just been discovered. Evidently Mr. Larkin did not think it worthy of publication, which I find amazing.

      Thanks for sharing the Eliot.


  2. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I am intrigued at how you seem to test my brain cells so early in the morning. It’s a good thing to ponder such things over the rising sun, chirping birds, and a steaming cup of coffee. If I keep hanging out here, you will infect me with the love for poetry. 🙂 This poem has certainly caught nature’s setting for fall and the soon to be Winter but I’m not ready for that just yet. I’m still in the Spring mode and enjoying all of nature’s newness of life.

    It looks to be a glorious Memorial Day here. I’m hopeful to get more planting done. The rain didn’t materialize last night which is fine with me. I sent it to Virginia. It will be there in a couple days. 🙂 My tomatoes that are in the buckets from the basement are starting to bloom and the cherry tomatoes are setting clusters of fruit. I just might have a tomato by the fourth of July. Wouldn’t that be a hoot. I juiced them with fish emulsion fertilizer a few days ago. That seemed to give them a boost. I’m never in a hurry to get squash, pumpkins, zucchini, or eggplant in the ground because of the vine borer. Planting even as late as July will still give enough time for maturity and cut down on the damage done by the dreaded little worm.

    Have a great Memorial Day holiday at White Flint Farm.


    • Joanna says:

      Gosh I can’t even imagine waiting until July to put the squash plants in. June or bust for us. But come the end of August, most will be safely gathered in 🙂 before the early frosts

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I thought of holding the poem till Fall, but decided it’s too good to have to wait. And besides, it’s fall now for plenty of the folks who read this blog. 🙂

      I appreciate the rain. Still none today. I spent almost all day laying drip lines. Didn’t have enough pipe to finish so I’ll have to go get more. It’s funny that despite our much earlier start, it looks like you’ll have summer veggies before we do. Nature does what she wants to do I suppose.

      I have a friend who plants squash by the moon signs. She plants quite a bit later than I do and says she has fewer squash bugs as a result.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cheeky birds, they were outside our window at five this morning, led by a turkey in a growing chorus of “Wake up sleepy heads.” –Curt


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