Work Has To Be Done


Philip Larkin

Sonnet for Elizabeth

by Joseph C. MacKenzie

I fear no more the settling of the night
Or mind its grey, evaporating shades;
Mine ears are deaf to time’s lost serenades,
Mine eyes content with thy soul’s loving light.

Thy morning’s halo puts the stars to flight,
And warms me in its luminous cascades;
And though the fairest luster sometimes fades,
No shadow taints thy bloom, O benedight!

When this brief season’s sun shall fail to rise,
And cease to gild our interfluent streams,
These verses shall emit thy beauty’s glow,

And make some heart, behind some future eyes,
To marvel how thy radiance yet gleams,
And how I loved thee, more than men could know.

Has it always been the norm from time immemorial that we experience those moments where we feel like we should be given a reprieve from this relentless expectation of earning a living and allowed to focus on what is most important right in front of us.  The vast majority of us have bills to pay and not the financial resources to take a break during our working years.  Most of us have no one who is in a position to give us that sense of security to take over the finances during a time of crisis to allow ourselves to devout our full consciousness on healing or re-invention.   Or if we do, we jeopardize the life lines that job security represents and we either have to be willing to risk it, or feel like you are not putting other’s at risk unnecessarily if you take a break.  It’s why the responsibility of being responsible is so pernicious.

In this weird epoch we have entered in 2020, where the sands seem to shift beneath our feet daily on several fronts, I think many of us are starting to question this  endless march of productivity for productivity’s sake.  It seems a bit pointless.  I stumbled across Joseph Coelho, a marvelous poet who is making video’s to help bring poetry into the classroom.   He has a whole series of video’s on YouTube around poetry.  I loved this video and his suggestion of writing a poem in the sand. 

In response to a recent post, a friend sent me the first stanza and a link to Philip Larkin’s Aubade.   Aubade is a masterful poem, both in its construction and it’s content.   A brief comment on its construction.  Each stanza is 10 lines, with roughly a rhyming sequence of ABABCCDEED.  Each line is 10 or 11 syllables long.  The five stanzas provide 50 lines and 500 syllables of canvass with which to work.  Each stanza is like a mini sonnet, with one four line ABAB clipped out.  I rather like it and will keep that idea open in the future as a writing structure for ideas that lend themselves to 20 or 30 or 40 lines. 

I appreciate Larkin’s deft touch with stark subjects.   Larkin doesn’t pussy foot around, either about himself or the world about him.   He articulates what most of us feel at times, about death and life and love; it can be a bit of a slog at times.   But Larkin has a way of weaving in a bit of hope as well, another day will dawn and the light grows stronger.  Go walk on the beach and write a poem and leave it for  strangers to be inspired and the waves at high tide to wash away. 


By Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   
Till then I see what’s really always there:   
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   
Making all thought impossible but how   
And where and when I shall myself die.   
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   
—The good not done, the love not given, time   
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,   
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill   
That slows each impulse down to indecision.   
Most things may never happen: this one will,   
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without   
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave   
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.   
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,   
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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