...Wives saw men of the explosion
Larger than in life they managed --
Gold as on a coin, or walking
Somehow from the sun towards them,
One showing the eggs unbroken."
Along routes used by Syrians attempting to flee their country's violence, the Assad Regime is laying landmines. Camps in Turkey and Jordan swell with incoming refugees, some of them wounded. Late one night, a teenage boy takes his chances and crosses a thorn-pocked field. A mine explodes. He loses his leg, but survives.
Philip Larkin's "The Explosion" (see excerpt above) isn't about anti-personnel, nor anti-vehicle mines. Yet last night as K. and I discussed Assad's utilization of what are most likely Soviet-era weapons, I couldn't help but think of Larkin's characterization of men "in pitboots / coughing oath-edged talk and pipe-smoke, / Shouldering off the freshened silence."
Of the link between Larkin's poem, which was produced in the 1970s, and the climate of urgency and grief post-9/11, Ron Smith writes for Blackbird:
Larkin was an unbeliever, an artist whose genuine, chronic fear of death’s oblivion was met with a candor that rose to the level of heroism. Consider the last line of “The Explosion,” effectively the last line of Larkin’s last poem. The beautiful eggs, symbols of life and creativity, are retrieved only in imagination, only through grief’s agonized yearning. They are unbroken and will remain so: they will never hatch. Maybe they are Larkin’s poems, the ones that somehow vanished in the subterranean world of the poet’s unconscious. For a poet named Larkin, what is a lark’s egg?
Heroism has its grandeur, Smith writes. And some losses leave us inconsolable.
And Larkin: "The dead go on before us ... / ...We shall see them face to face..."
Yes. And yes.