The Night Before Christmas
Are generally over or around
Erogenous zones, they seem to dive
In the direction of those
Dark places, and indeed
It is their nature to be dark
Themselves, keeping a kind
Of thieves’ kitchen for the things
Sequestered from the world
For long or little while,
The keys, the handkerchiefs,
The sad and vagrant little coins
That are really only passing through.
For all they locate close to lust,
No pocket ever sees another;
There is in fact a certain sadness
To pockets, going in their lonesome ways
And snuffling up their sifting storms
Of dust, tobacco bits and lint.
A pocket with a hole in it
Drops out; from shame, is that, or pride?
What is a pocket but a hole?
Coming home on a summer night
To the empty house – it’s like being
On colorless TV, on the stage set
For Return of the Grand Insomniac;
It is to watch your life as it would be
Without you: the old druggist in the darkroom
Developing someone else’s negatives.
An odd convergence of thoughts and imagery appears. That which appears in this Larkin poem (a hedgehog jammed into the lawnmower blades), that which I conjure up when I think of the Czech poem “Half a Hedgehog” and the dual thought of a Nemerov poem referring to “power mowers” and a book I read that dealt with language misunderstanding/mishearing (in which someone had misunderstood and written the term “paramour” as “power mower”).
Oddly, as irreverent as it may seem, I discovered this poem the same day as someone close to me lost a very close friend suddenly. I was preparing it to include here when I heard the news of this shocking death, and suddenly these words had new and urgent relevance: “the first day after a death, the new absence/Is always the same; we should be careful/Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time.”
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.