Tony Harrison

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How is loss of a loved one presented by the poet in the poem "Long Distance II?"

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In "Long Distance II" by Tony Harrison, the loss of a loved one is presented as though that person is still around somewhere, even while the narrator bluntly acknowledges that "life ends with death, and that is all" (line 13). This is the line that makes the poem intriguing. 

He has watched his father, even two years after the death of his mother, behaving as though "she’d just popped out to get the tea" (12). His father had kept her slippers warm, "put hot water bottles her side of the bed / and still went to renew her transport pass" (2-4). All the same, he'd hide these signs of of his "still raw love" before he'd allow his son to visit, as though his odd behaviors were a "crime" (8). 

At the end of the poem, we learn that the narrator has also lost his father now, but even while he says he believes "life ends with death," he has written his father's name and number in his new black leather phone book" and he still calls it (15-6), suggesting that he is either unable to accept that his father is gone or it's simply easier for him to go on pretending that his father is alive--somewhere. 

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