How Sad Indeed
——for Philip Larkin
your home in Newland Park, its garden
thick with weeds, snapped up — the university
outbid. It stayed as it was left — no music
in the piano stool, no vase, but shoes,
a horsehair shaving brush untouched for years.
It’s where your poems dried up — all except
that hedgehog you found jammed against the mower
blades. An orphan in your place, new absence,
(yes, it’s much the same), your father’s model
Hitler, corks inscribed with dates. I wonder,
Philip, what you had to celebrate.
Old second feature sci-fi films seem primitive to us
these days — Plan 9 from Outer Space is shameless.
More a rough cut than a finished print, the picture’s
few apologists insist that it’s a masterpiece of camp.
Suspending disbelief’s a Hollywood priority. Back
then the saucers flew on strings, blue-screen trick
photography left much to be desired, cost constraints
in set design and wardrobe made productions more
theatrical. Fourth wall politics are black and white.
A bargain-bin of compromise, low-budget matinees
gave rise to the expression of ideas. Atomic age
anxieties and fears kept families up at night. Giant
radiated ants, invading aliens, a man who shrinks
to insect size — subversive cinema is best disguised.
French New Wave got all the press. Mid-century
charlatans like Wood still fuck with people’s minds.
The Bird Cage
The new wing at the Baycrest Geriatric
Home is bright and clean, its glassed-in ceiling
vaulted like the firmament. Walking sticks
and wheelchairs move so slowly I think
more than once of photographs developing,
daguerreotypes and silver plate. A cage
stands as the centrepiece, adds colour, brings
the invalids and children face to face
with birds of paradise. “The pleasure I take
feeding them”, says one old man. He’d flown
from Austria in ‘thirty-eight and made
a break before the camps. The children hold
out sunflower seeds, he coaches, and I feel
a kind of wonder. Is there nothing that can’t keep?