On the day of the explosion
Shadows pointed towards the pithead:
In the sun the slagheap slept.
Down the lane came men in pitboots
Coughing oath-edged talk and pipe-smoke,
Shouldering off the freshened silence.
One chased after rabbits; lost them;
Came back with a nest of lark’s eggs;
Showed them; lodged them in the grasses.
So they passed in beards and moleskins,
Fathers, brothers, nicknames, laughter,
Through the tall gates standing open.
At noon, there came a tremor; cows
Stopped chewing for a second; sun,
Scarfed as in a heat-haze, dimmed.
The dead go on before us, they
Are sitting in God’s house in comfort,
We shall see them face to face -
Plain as lettering in the chapels
It was said, and for a second
Wives saw men of the explosion
Larger than in life they managed -
Gold as on a coin, or walking
Somehow from the sun towards them,
One showing the eggs unbroken.
This poem reminds me of Nicole Krauss' Man Walks into a Room, which is absolutely luminous and transcendent and heartbreaking. After reading the novel- my heart was especially tender, there was a small breath caught in my throat that refused to leave, the world seemed a little quieter and sadder around me; this is what I feel when I read this Larkin poem too. Death is something that scares me, a lot. And it shouldn't. But it does. The openness of it; the uncertainty of it. I can't imagine an unconsciousness, a nothingness, a being nothingness. Bigger than the sky and wider than a breath and just, not there.
One showing the eggs unbroken- the brilliance of a single image. The tangibility of specificity. Aaaack I love Larkin.