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Coming to VisitAndrew Motion
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Vol. 5 No. 18 · 6 October 1983
Poem

Coming to Visit

Andrew Motion

374 words

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 it.

I should have said I was jealous
and nothing else, but whatever
the reason, I slipped myself out
through the oiled front door
to the trees – where the wind
was sizzling like rain in a fire –

then the river beyond. There,
when I had danced my way over nettles
down to the mossy bank, and struck
– as anyone would have admitted –
a precious, theatrical pose,
I could almost be sure I believed

a double was what I was missing.
You and your twin swam deftly
into my head, curled up alseep
as if you were children, embracing
with warm, brown, identical arms
and breathing each other’s breath.

All I could actually see, though,
was my head in the water distorted
half by ripples, half by the moon,
so it seemed I was watching a head
appear in a well, or a rocky cleft,
which might – if I ever allowed it –

give itself gnomic, oracular airs.
I imagined a gravelly voice,
of course: Whoever loves best
loves best by remaining themselves
– something I more or less knew
in my heart, and then knew in fact

when a light blazed on behind me
and Kate, with a panicky shout,
was calling your name. In her room,
absurdly soaked to the knees
where I had scrambled through waves
of sopping grass, I found you

already beside her, stretched
on her jangly, brass-headed bed
hugging her close, and Kate –
whispering into your shoulder
as if she were shy, or ashamed –
explaining not just how the ghost

must have watched her sleeping,
but how when she woke she discovered
one freckled arm had been slithered
subtly over her shoulder, the better
to ease her onto her side, and the face,
staring an inch from her face, was her own.

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