Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is one of my favourite poets. He had a deceptively simple style, using striking imagery and a conversational tone, underscored with a wry humour. He wasn’t afraid to tackle huge questions relating to morality, death, work, love, religion; but it was all done in a plain, direct manner – no high-faluting waffle! In two of his best-known poems: “Church-Going” and “Aubade”, he commented on religion – “That vast moth-eaten musical brocade/Created to pretend we never die” (“Aubade”).
My poem “The Facilitators” is one of the few I’ve done that has religion as its subject. It was inspired by walking past a church recently and seeing people sitting in cars, waiting patiently for their loved ones to appear after the church service. I also remembered how my father – who had no interest in religion at all – used to take my devoutly Roman Catholic mother to church every sunday, then drive away to the golf course. I’d like to think Philip Larkin might have approved of the poem; and, of course, if anyone sees anything Larkinesque in it (if there is such a word?), I’d be absolutely delighted!
Every Sunday morning, there they are,
patiently waiting. The respectable car
neatly parked, in its allotted place.
These days, plenty of parking space.
In the church, the loved ones participate
in rituals they link to their ultimate fate.
Genuflect, pray, unite with the laity.
Chant words of joy and praise to their deity.
In the car, idling in the shade of the spire,
the drivers are content; they have no desire
for mystical communion, or celestial fire.
Happy playing the part of taxi for hire.
It is admirable, tolerant, civilized,
but discounts the drama of those earlier lives,
when all revolved around one’s spiritual creed;
the passion inspiring every thought, every deed.
Service concluded, the loved ones appear;
exiting the church, their consciences clear.
Saying their goodbyes, eyes immediately darting
to the cars, awaiting; the engines, starting.