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25 June 1992
... My father and mother were Adam and Eve back to the garden hand in hand, forgiven and blameless, their lives their own. But this was no garden: this attic flat was an eye on the Thames blinded with rain, their landlord’s dog a wolf at the door. They didn’t care; for all they knew love was the roof above their heads, love paid bills and kept them fed. By night they took their deckled ledger and counted ...

The Wave

Andrew Motion

1 April 2004
... For my mother at 75 The sun-room, but there’s only drizzly rain Finessing silly doodles on the view Of what would otherwise be summer grass And blameless lupins blazing at the stake. So all eyes turn indoors. And here again Like kindly furies standing over you Are friends and family who raise a glassThen falter, smile, and wait for you to speak. You flap your hand, half anxious, half amazed – A ...

Zero

Andrew Motion

19 June 1997
... This is not the point, but you had only to look at your soft red atlas to have it fall open where years ago you had written PERSIA for some reason, AFGANISTAN and KASHMIR, adrift in your schoolgirl dream of ancient and modern. The point is, rather, that once you had shown me the way into those places, perched on slabs of frost-shattered rock then floating on eagle-thermals over the tawny desert, with ...

These Days

Andrew Motion

5 April 1984
... It might be any night these days, when every night is like nothing on earth. Tired with drinking, we long for your riotous children to wear themselves out and shamble off to their beds.Make it be soon, my eyes say rolling up to the ceiling – a relished, leisurely roll which tells you as wellI want you. Bowing low so your forehead rests on the rumpled tablecloth just for a second, you pour milk in ...
1 October 1998
... Here comes Stanley Spencer with his pram – his bowl-cut – and his crazy-uncle specs – so this must be your childhood Ruby – must be Cookham – must be 19 – 19-what – is nothing black and white – what sort of question’s that – the war has come and gone – let’s call it 1920 and you ten – and look there’s Stanley turning in the churchyard – cherry’s out – the purple buddleia ...

The House Through

Andrew Motion

20 March 1980
... I At the iron lodge-gates I melt for the first time, leaving rust unstirred, dew gripping a slack chain. This is the drive I remember – a formal line through beech and open ground where horses graze as ever. So what if I float close? What if then I touch one drinking? Slow and whiskery the warm head looms towards me, seeing nothing but a rim of moss around the water-butt, trees, and wind across the ...

Resident at the Club

Andrew Motion

4 March 1982
... Once there was Grayzo and me, now there is only me. By twelve, when servants have closed the bar and gone wherever they go to sleep, the Club is my own. I am drunk as usual tonight, weaving my way to bed through the hushed saloon with its ropes of cigarette smoke, then out to the balcony steps. It was here that Grayzo stopped me, using his pompous ironical voice:Permit me to show you the plansfor my ...

Run

Andrew Motion

21 December 1989
... In the small hours I slipped back to childhood for a moment and lay in my old bed with its view of the chestnut tree. It was winter and you had just died; I was excited, still thinking your death was a thing apart which soon I would put in the ground like a body to visit from time to time, and otherwise forget. But take Ruth, who drowned last week. I used to fancy her – now all I think is what water ...

Coming to Visit

Andrew Motion

6 October 1983
... Your daughter Kate saw the ghost the same summer night your twin came for her visit. I had been happy, before, always to leave my place in your bed for the twin to take it, but this time something was wrong. In the spare-room, staring down at the single acacia and beech which suddenly loomed like a wood, I was willing the close-set leaves to obscure me, to let me be lost to the world and everyone in ...

Goethe in the Park

Andrew Motion

9 March 1995
... The slates have gone from that shed in the park where sometimes the old sat if they were desperate, and sometimes the young with nowhere better to fuck, and now given some luck the whole piss-stinking thing will fall to the ground, no, I mean will lift into space, no evidence left in its earthly place of the grey graffiti runes, the deck of glue, the bench with broken ribs, where if things had been ...

Tamworth

Andrew Motion

13 October 1988
... Red brick on red brick. A boiled eye in a greenhouse. Lilac smoking in sere gutters and crevices. A pigtailed head on lamp-post after lamp-post.    * We had taken my mother’s estate and driven into the blue – she was in hospital then, and didn’t care.    * Out of nowhere, nowhere else to go, stuck in the parched afternoon, collapsed, the mushroom hush of the lounge bar oozing up through ...

Two Poems

Andrew Motion

18 November 1982
... Open Secrets ‘The first time father erupted that day was at Florrie rolling the dustbins downhill to their emptying-pit. From the upstairs landing I saw him arms crossed with his dressing-gown’s dark green paisley swirled in the wind, and Florrie scarlet, still half-swiveled round to the litter as if it surprised her, tattering out in a trail of scrumpled tissues and newspapers onto the moor. After ...

Two Poems

Andrew Motion

9 October 1986
... In the Beginning You existed for months as an echo bouncing off darkness and silence, then changed yourself at a glance to the delicate bones of a kipper dandled to and fro in the waves of a sunless ocean before shouldering into the world with a crown blobbed like a bird’s egg and indigo stampers’ feet but nothing about you a fragment more or less than perfect, even though putting my face up to ...

Firing Practice

Andrew Motion

21 February 1985
... You knew you were lucky, born all of a piece and born into peace. So why were you seeing your father off from the flagstone step wearing your sweet little cowboy suit – distressed leather chaps with grubby fringes – and him in his real, steely-pressed uniform? Once in a while he would take you: Daimler sickness swaying to Salisbury Plain, and a rainy weekend of firing – a privileged view from ...
8 April 2015
... If only the stories were not so tempting – but from day one I started to embroider, and in no time was suggesting a country far to the North where fish are as large as dragons, and even minor administrators eat off gold plates, and sleep on gold beds. That is why I have packed in my birch canoe a robe made of the feathers of more than 100 different species of bird. So that when I have finally crossed ...

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