Today, October 4th is National Poetry Day in the UK. I toyed with posting one of the many love poems, that I’m rather partial to, but at the last moment reverted to my default Larkin position. Here’s a little poem that was published in the New Humanist in 1972, and one that is perhaps poignant to all of us, either because we know someone in a care home, or else we work in the growing field of dementia care. I post it because I aspire that one day, a painfully succinct piece of writing like this, will be historical, an archival moment that we’ll vaguely remember, of days when care was sub-standard, and warehousing our older, frailer elders was acceptable. So a mix of Larkin’s own fear of illness and dying and sadly, some still-familiar imagery. C.P.
The wild white hair and staring eyes;
Jaws stand open; necks are stretched
With every tendon sharply sketched;
A bearded mouth talks silently
To someone no one else can see.
Sixty years ago they smiled
At lover, husband, first-born child.
Smiles are for youth. For old age come
Death's terror and delirium.