As Bad as a Mile

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.


This little poem with simple aaa bbb rhyme scheme is about failure. The description in the poem is of the “shied core” of an apple, “striking the basket” and “skidding across the floor”. It’s an image we can all relate to, and one that might set one over the edge: after a bad day, it all builds into the simple failure of missing the bin with an apple core. The word “failure” is stressed by the enjambment, (a feature common in Larkin’s poetry) appearing at the beginning of the second stanza.

The poem laments the past, the “unraised hand calm, / The apple unbitten in the palm”. However, there is an irrevocability to eating an apple, just as there is with the failure of reaching the basket. “Apple unbitten” also has religious connotations: taking us back to the Garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate. That Fall was the pinnacle of failure, and as with every other image, irreversible.

Though short, ‘As Bad as a Mile’ is an effective metaphor for the idea of irrevocable failure.

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