Lifesaving Lines: The Trees, by Philip Larkin

Four slender cherry trees in full blossom taken from under the boughs of larger trees, also in full blossom, their petals scattered on the grass.

Early May. Sitting in the bay window upstairs at Cricklewood revising for finals. My pink vest and purple jeans phase. A fisherman’s cap to set it all off. Cycling to the exam hall on Lisa’s German bike, pedalling backwards to brake. Back to the old house.

Afterwards, hot chocolate with whipped cream with Liz (‘My treat!’) on Hampstead High Street. Then all of Swift in a day. The link to Orwell. The link to Kafka. And on. What do I know about Jane Austen? It’s gone. ‘Good luck.’ ‘You too.’

Outside it is peak blossom. In a week it will be brown mush on the pavement. Children dancing in its confetti, a wedding in each throw.

Out of the corner of my eye, and not on the syllabus, a small green book, left lying around under ash by Squirrel. I ask to borrow it, take it everywhere. Poems that take my breath away. Wishing I had done him and not Ted Hughes. Poems I have been waiting all my life to read, falling head over heels instantly, insanely. That vase. Somewhere becoming rain.

And now this. A wasted first year, a disappearing act in the second, playing catch-up in the third, just as I realise this might mean something. Mrs Dalloway. To the Lighthouse. Jacob’s Room.

Their greenness is a kind of grief. Oh yes. Like something almost being said. Chatting up Molly at the end of year drinks, Dutch courage mixed with fear, knowing it would come to nothing. Having wanted to say something for three years. Always in the row just behind. The almost cutting through me. Words at once true and kind. Greenness. Grief. A lesson in almost. And now the future.


  1. Hi Ant

    I love Trees Been reading The Trees are down Charlotte Mew earlier on

    In Hearing God in Poetry . Richard Harries SPCK

    Lovely Lovely book

    Hope you and your brood are well

    Love Murray

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Well it was a phase, and now burned into my memory because of poems like this one. Though I should have been studying for something else. The story of my life. With best wishes, Anthony


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