For Hillary: A Slice of Philip Larkin, Served Cold

No Dylan Thomas for you, Madame. Instead, a part of Philip Larkin’s poem, The Old Fools, a dish of karmic revenge served up by the many people under your now-uncertain feet, those trampled faces smiling up at you:


At death, you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other for ever
With no one to see. It’s only oblivion, true:
We had it before, but then it was going to end,
And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour
To bring to bloom the million-petaled flower
Of being here. Next time you can’t pretend
There’ll be anything else. And these are the first signs:
Not knowing how, not hearing who, the power
Of choosing gone. Their looks show that they’re for it:
Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines —
How can they ignore it?

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting.
People you know, yet can’t quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun’s
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
This is why they give

An air of baffled absence, trying to be there
Yet being here. For the rooms grow farther, leaving
Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear
Of taken breath, and them crouching below
Extinction’s alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet:
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous, inverted childhood? Well,
We shall find out.

18 thoughts on “For Hillary: A Slice of Philip Larkin, Served Cold

  1. Almost certainly, Clinton is not eager to debate Trump publicly, and this might be a way to avoid it–for a while anyway.
    BTW, if she has pneumonia would she visit her daughter with two little kids?
    Just wondering…

  2. Do not worry is she passes on her staff will do a ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ and carry her around.

  3. Larkin seems to have written this when he was around 50. I wonder whether he recalled it nearer to his death at 63?

    Still, allowing a moment’s empathy for him, I’ve little for HRC.

  4. Were I a politician (God forbid) this would be the MOST embarrassing picture of my life. She really should just retire gracefully at this point, but power-mongers don’t do that, do they?

    • I agree she should hang it up, but at this point retiring with grace is a ship that has sailed. History will not be kind to Hillary.

  5. Her handlers really should be more careful when they quickly throw her into her private black medevac unit, since she’s on Coumadin her next bruise could be her last. A fall that might not be consequential for others her age could result in serious hemorrhaging. My mother was placed on Coumadin for life this summer after a week long hospital stay due to blood clots in her lungs and the list of precautions (for the medication alone) is daunting.

    • That black man on the left of her seems to be always there when she is having a medical moment. Is he a doctor or paramedic?

  6. The lust for power and its continued exercise must do that to a person, age them before their time. She is only five years older than I am and younger than some friends and family, but she is doddering about as though she were in her eighties. Tis sad, but it may be a fair warning to the rest of us not to lust after or covet what you do not have, because in the end it ain’t worth the having.

  7. If elected it will be fun to watch as she grows more and more infirm. But to her disciples, she could cough up a lung and lose […] her intestines on the debate stage and it will still be a “right-wing conspiracy” that she is ill.

    • Maybe it is a conspiracy? I used to say that big snowstorms – those amazing nor’easters – were caused by the accumulative effects of millions of school children passionately praying for snow. So maybe the same dynamic is operative here: so many people praying fervently that she not be elected are having their effect??


  8. Having a 92 year old grandmother-in-law fast slipping into dementia in a nursing home (and facing my own mortality under an ever-increasing plethora of medications to combat rheumatoid arthritis, the after-effects of a stroke caused by medical malpractice and the various disorders that so readily come with age), I read the lines from Larkin and shuddered. My wife’s grandmother has recently begun reporting phone conversations with a daughter who has been dead for nearly a decade and asking why she doesn’t visit. All we can do is change the subject.

    I despise HRC as a person but, seeing her in the past few days, I’m desperately sad for her as a human being.

    • I posted the Larkin poem, omitting the more gruesome first stanza since it didn’t seem germane.

      I am sorry death affects you the way it does. But given what you’ve been through, I can see why it might.

      When my mother came to live with us in the last year of her life, the Baron was her main caretaker. (I was working and he was “just” painting and home-schooling our son.

      Mother had Parkinson’s, mainly. We had hoped to have her around for longer, but a year was all we got. And the B was wearing out by then…Since she was Irish and didn’t care much for “pasta”, she often wistfully asked for potatoes…my childhood, spent peeling 10 pounds of potatoes every evening for Mother and her Dublin brothers, put me off cooking them much. Now I wished I’d indulged her more…

      …but death is…well, normal. I can see why people would dread the process leading up to it – there are so many painful ways to go – but death in old age? That’s not awful if one receives adequate hospice care…

      Maybe when the time comes I’ll change my tune, but I’ve drawn up a list for my replacement when I’m gone (the B is younger than I am).I figure I’ll save her a lot of time learning the Baron’s quirks…and I’ve warned him ahead of time to make sure to see the medical records of any potential replacement. He’s served his time with Driving Ms. Dymphna around since fibromyalgia made me an unsafe driver.

      I already know where I’ll be buried. Unlike my mother, I don’t require that the B throw a potato into my grave – a promise he made to her during one of her complaints about the dearth of spuds ’round here.

      Perhaps our view of death is partly influenced by our belief in what happens after death. If one is absolutely sure this it *it*, there is no after-life, then in most such cases it will seem harder, sadder. Me? I’ve promised to haunt a few after I’m gone… 😉

    • I also pondered my compassion for her. No one likes to see a person suffering. Dymphna’s post below cured me.

      So save it. Refraining from spitting on her grave is enough

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