David Whitwell

At the End


Listen - here’s another thing

for which I can find no name.


At the moment of crisis,

no, after that,

when things have been said

and there’s no going back,

you’ve gathered your stuff

and you’re leaving,

you’ve put it all in the car

and you look up

or you turn slightly - thinking

this moment will no recur,

this is the end of all these things.

As you turn that last time

you find it’s not what you thought,

it looks different.

There are doors you never entered,

windows you didn’t know existed

and the face looking down

is not your old enemy

but someone once loved.


Maybe at the end

it will be like this.

After all the things said

after letting go,

resigning to the flow running through you,

after it is too late for any response

maybe then you will see.


This poem is about a feeling or experience which I have often encountered, and for which I can find no name. Not having a name makes it difficult to talk about.


It is not meant to be a melancholy or sad observation but a hopeful and uplifting one. Our viewpoints can always shift. The way we see things is always provisional, and for some reason it is often at the end, at a time of change, that we can realise things are not how they have seemed.


When I read the poem I think it was seen as a bit gloomy, and mainly about the ending of things. That was not what interested me in this subject.


There is a wider question. Understanding the content of a poem is one thing, which we may or may not achieve. But then there is the way the poem affects us: how we are left feeling afterwards. This latter aspect is much more interesting and mysterious. It is what I look for in a poem, but making it happen is the difficult thing.