Delay, well, travellers must expect
Delay. For how long? No one seems to know.
With all the luggage weighed, the tickets checked,
It can't be long... We amble to and fro,
Sit in steel chairs, buy cigarettes and sweets
And tea, unfold the papers. Ought we to smile,
Perhaps make friends? No: in the race for seats
You're best alone. Friendship is not worth while.
Six hours pass: if I'd gone by boat last night
I'd be there now. We'll, it's too late for that.
The kiosk girl is yawning. I feel staled,
Stupified, by inaction—and, as light
Begins to ebb outside, by fear; I set
So much on this Assumption. Now it's failed.
—Philip Larkin, 1953
Reprinted by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.
Home page image: "Wegbereiter Ikarus," print, woodblock on paper, by Wilhelm Geissler, 1966. (Courtesy NASM)