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Book Ends Analysis

Author: poem of Tony Harrison Type: poem Views: 83

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Baked the day she suddenly dropped dead

we chew it slowly that last apple pie.

Shocked into sleeplessness you're scared of bed.

We never could talk much, and now don't try.

You're like book ends, the pair of you, she'd say,

Hog that grate, say nothing, sit, sleep, stare…

The 'scholar' me, you, worn out on poor pay,

only our silence made us seem a pair.

Not as good for staring in, blue gas,

too regular each bud, each yellow spike.

At night you need my company to pass

and she not here to tell us we're alike!

You're life's all shattered into smithereens.

Back in our silences and sullen looks,

for all the Scotch we drink, what's still between 's

not the thirty or so years, but books, books, books.


The stone's too full.  The wording must be terse.

There's scarcely room to carve the FLORENCE on it--

Come on, it's not as if we're wanting verse.

It's not as if we're wanting a whole sonnet!

After tumblers of neat Johnny Walker

(I think that both of us we're on our third)

you said you'd always been a clumsy talker

and couldn't find another, shorter word

for 'beloved' or for 'wife' in the inscription,

but not too clumsy that you can't still cut:

You're supposed to be the bright boy at description

and you can't tell them what the fuck to put!

I've got to find the right words on my own.

I've got the envelope that he'd been scrawling,

mis-spelt, mawkish, stylistically appalling

but I can't squeeze more love into their stone.

Submitted by Andrew Mayers


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