“Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more
“Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.”
Larkin exceeds Beckett’s overused “fail better.” Like original sin, failure is built into human action. It’s a familiar Larkin theme, one he refutes by composing so concisely clever a poem out of such unpromising material – throwing refuse at the waste basket, something we do every day. He finished writing “As Bad as a Mile” on this date, Feb. 9, in 1960.