How Distant

By Philip Larkin
how-distantHow distant, the departure of young men

Down valleys, or watching

The green shore past the salt-white cordage

Rising and falling.


Cattlemen, or carpenters, or keen

Simply to get away

From married villages before morning,

Melodeons play


On tiny decks past fraying cliffs of water

Or late at night

Sweet under the differently-swung stars,

When the chance sight


Of a girl doing her laundry in the steerage

Ramifies endlessly.

This is being young,

Assumption of the startled century


Like new store clothes,

The huge decisions printed out by feet

Inventing where they tread,

The random windows conjuring a street.



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