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February 21, 2020


I think the Larkin allusion may come from these lines: "He / And his lot will all go down the long slide / Like free bloody birds." Larkin's poem, of course, is in part about how the elderly are marginalized, "pushed to one side / Like an outdated combine harvester." Something similar happens with the homeless in this poem. The lines I quoted from Larkin are about how we look with envy on the younger generation, who are free of some of the social codes and restrictions that governed us in yesteryear, but for some even making it to old age is a miracle; here, the birds going down the slide are made literal, not a representation of freedom or a "perfect world's / openness," but rather the hard fact of bodies sacrificed to indifference. I'm not articulating this very well, but I definitely see a connection. Larkin's poem ends with an image of transcendence, windows that lead onto "the deep blue air, that shows / Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless." But here that transcendence, I think, is a kind of fool's gold, or at least something only reserved for the privileged. ("Crystal-windowed / towers" are not so different from ivory towers, or even a Trump Tower, I would say.)

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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