Tag Archives Philip Larkin


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The fox came to his patio his first night

at the absurdly named Augustus Gardens.

The beginnings of emphysema –

slight punishment for nearly sixty years

of cigarettes – had forced the exchange

of a fifth floor city centre apartment,

with a view of the quays, for a ground floor

suburban residential home ensuite,

and the abandonment of decades of vice

with Passing Cloud, Lucky Strike and Gitanes.


He had been weary but sleepless; wracked

by the faux Faustian deal he had made;

marvelling how strong the urge to live

at whatever cost to dignity

or truth; shunning the locked rooms

of memory he would never open.

Lines from Shakespeare parts he had played entered

and exited – ‘Sleep that knits up the ravell’d

sleeve of care…sore labour’s bath…balm of hurt minds…

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose

to the wet sea-boy… and in the calmest

and most stillest night…deny it to a king?’


He had got up to make the breathy journey

across his expensive room to pee

when he briefly saw the fox – though at first

he thought a dog had strayed onto his small,

secluded patio with its pergola.


More cards arrived next morning wishing him well,

and texts, tweets, emails. He had opted for meals

in his room and, weather permitting,

to be pushed around the grounds twice a day.

On the afternoon ride he asked Dale aka

Datu about the fox. ‘Must be neighbour dog.

No August foxes, Mistah Worldly.’


Back in his room he researched on his iPad

images of the creature, words about it:

‘Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that

spoil the vines…our vines have tender grapes…If thou

wert the lion, the fox would beguile thee,

if thou wert the lamb, the fox would eat thee…’


Sleepless again that night he sat in shadow

near the window, and he was certain

that it was a fox which came, sniffed the air then left.

And so a routine developed: sleeping

a little during the day, staying up

for the fox to arrive – and, in time,

leaving a piece of fruit or slice of cooked meat,

and watching the animal eat, quickly, alert.


With rare guests – his uninterested son, his concerned

granddaughter, a knowing, ironic

old theatre friend – he would share his secret:

the nightly performer without words

or gestures – much better, he would joke,

than any ‘wilderness of monkeys’!

And would remember, as his breathing worsened

with each dramatic telling, of the time

he did the voice-over for a Larkin

documentary: ‘…how we live measures

our own nature…at his age having

no more to show than one hired box should make him

pretty sure he warranted no better…’





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