Two Great Poems

Fiction and the Reading Public
by Philip Larkin

Give me a thrill, says the reader,
Give me a kick;
I don't care how you succeed, or
What subject you pick.
Choose something you know all about
That'll sound like real life:
Your childhood, your Dad pegging out,
How you sleep with your wife.

But that's not sufficient, unless
You make me feel good--
Whatever you're 'trying to express'
Let it be understood
That 'somehow' God plaits up the threads,
Makes 'all for the best',
That we may lie quiet in our beds
And not be 'depressed'.

For I call the tune in this racket:
I pay your screw,
Write reviews and the bull on the jacket--
So stop looking blue
And start serving up your sensations
Before it's too late;
Just please me for two generations--
You'll be 'truly great'.

(1950). In Philip Larkin: Collected Poems

Cowboys
by C.K. Williams

The science-fiction movie on the telly in which the world, threatened by
aliens with destruction,
is, as always, saved, is really just a Western with rays and jets instead of
pistols and horses.
The heroes crouch behind computers instead of rocks, but still mow
down the endlessly expendable villains
who fire back but somehow always miss the stars, except one, the extra-
lovable second lead,
nice guy, funny, a little too libidinal, who you know from minute one
will teach us to die,
in his buddy's arms, stoical, never losing sight of our side's virtues: com-
munity and self-denial.
On the other channel, Pompeii: Christians, pagans, same story, them
and us, another holy mission,
the actors resonating with deep conviction, voices of manly sanctity, like
Reagan on the news.

(1987) In C.K. Williams: Collected Poems