On PARENTS

My Parentsoil on canvas
1977

‘My Parents’, David Hockney, 1977, Oil on Canvas, Tate Gallery, London

Leaving Larkin Alone

‘This Be My Verse’

 

We all do it
We pass on pain
From one generation
To the next
It is essential to
our rite of passage
backwards
to our parents
and forward
to our offspring

Leaving Larkin alone
Although I can see
Where he’s coming from
My mam and dad
Still
Loom large in my life
Even so long
After leaving it

They must have been lonely
Lovers of their son
Country child
Only child
Lonely child
Left so soon
Longing for London’s
Lively life
And a renewal
Of lost love

With some bitterness
No bile
No bombast
I recognise my
Ambitions
And accept
They damaged
Not destroyed
Their devotion

Through it all
Dedication to me
And to mine
Remained
How could I
Have acted differently
They set me up for this
Their ambitions for me
Self-harming
Through being
Selfless
Succeeding
To their own detriment

Now
I find myself
Bemoaning
With an intensity
Which hurts
More every day
My callous
Refutation of their need
For my love

If only
I’d not been
The only one
The only child
If I’d not deserted
That early home
With seeming
Eagerness
That cradle of my mind
Those roots of my soul
Now so full of meaning
So pertinent
To the man I have become

But when the conflict
Presented itself to me
I was by then
Committed
Other responsibilities
Crowded in
And parents
As happens to them
Take the rear seat

 And yet
I know
I had to go
To avoid
That tethering by love
Which smothers
More dutiful sons
It avoided
My hopes
Being stifled
Petrified
And pressed into
The backwaters
Of a life

Perhaps it must be so
For don’t we all do it

Think of those others
Leaving behind their roots
For pastures new
Able to look only onwards
Whilst leaving
The hurt
Of separation
From those who loved them
But would do nothing
But encourage their ambitions

Bennett
Showed how to escape
Walter and Lilian
Whilst continuing
To cull their histories

Hughes
With his animal instincts
Needing to roam free
Left William and Edith
For an itinerant life

Hockney
Soon found California
More suitable
To his calling
Leaving
Kenneth and Laura
To theirs

I claim
None of their skills
Their powers
To change the world
But my history
Reflects theirs
Grammarians
Tykes of a sort
And of an age
Seeking
Advancement
Searching for soul
For life
In pastures new
Neglectful of commitment
To our own past
Conscious only
Of our independent futures

It was ever thus
All took Larkin
At his word
Got out –
As early as they could
And
How odd
That two of them
Even followed Larkin’s advice
Eschewing
Parenthood
The essence of
Larkin’s dismissal
Of his own birthright
His reckoning
With Sidney and Eva
For giving him birth

But
Leaving Larkin alone
Again
Our legacies may prove
Our sense in cutting
The ties that bind
Perhaps the world is
Consequently
A better place.

Our parents
May not think the same
But what are parents
Other than
The future’s hope

bennettsparents-walterlilian

Pub. Faber & Faber … 2009

sline6

Philip Larkin’s poem, ‘This Be The Verse’ was written around April 1971, first published in the August 1971 issue of ‘New Humanist’, and appeared in the 1974 collection ‘High Windows’ (Pub. Faber & Faber, 1974).  A copy of the poem can be read on the Poetry Foundation website at:  ‘This Be The Verse’

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12 thoughts on “On PARENTS

  1. Roland, this is excellent, and for better or worse, resonates. I wish I could bring my father and grandparents back from the dead for a conversation and hugs. Instead, I try as best I can to communicate with them from across the other side. I didn’t have enough time for them when they were present. I try to remember this when I’m longing for a visit or phone call from my own kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Laura’s comments Roland. This is an excellent poem containing three of the finest artists. I don’t know if you have read the biography on Larkin by James Booth, titled Life, Art and Love. It details the difficult relationship Larkin had with his father and probably provided the foundation for the style and mood of many of his poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A poignant poem about our generation where we were encouraged to fly high. I hope we do remember who gave us wings ( I am sure we do) and we do the same for our children
    Thanks Roland for this one

    Like

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