I Remember, I Remember

by Philip Larkin

i-rememberComing up England by a different line

For once, early in the cold new year,

We stopped, and, watching men with number plates

Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,

“Why, Coventry!” I exclaimed. “I was born here.”
.

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign

That this was still the town that had been ‘mine’

So long, but found I wasn’t even clear

Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates

Were standing, had we annually departed
.

For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:

Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.

‘Was that,’ my friend smiled, ‘where you “have your roots”?’

No, only where my childhood was unspent,

I wanted to retort, just where I started:
.

By now I’ve got the whole place clearly charted.

Our garden, first: where I did not invent

Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,

And wasn’t spoken to by an old hat.

And here we have that splendid family
.

I never ran to when I got depressed,

The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,

Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be

‘Really myself’. I’ll show you, come to that,

The bracken where I never trembling sat,
.

Determined to go through with it; where she

Lay back, and ‘all became a burning mist’.

And, in those offices, my doggerel

Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read

By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,
.

Who didn’t call and tell my father There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead –
‘You look as though you wished the place in Hell,’

My friend said, ‘judging from your face.’ ‘Oh well,

I suppose it’s not the place’s fault,’ I said.
.

‘Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’

 

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