The House Through

Andrew Motion

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 field
brushing grass to molten silver.

II

Here by the door, I am
identical with its thin paint;
then one step and darkness
falls in a furious storm

of splinters, rings, grains,
until daylight inside again
and the hall, and his voice
somewhere, but not as before.

III

It is outside. A voice not
raised in love as I knew
but monotonous, singing
‘Smoke gets in your eyes’

for no one to hear. And then
I see him at last, his face
shadowed by lavender, peering
for weeds where the flowerbed

bends in a haze of blue.
A Sunday paper blows free –
its awkward panicking wings
flap on the lawn, but I

am more stealthy than that,
drifting behind him to watch
as obscurely as only I do.
Desolate, kind man. How soon

I have learnt my loneliness
seeing your own; how hard
to think that nothing except
your death could end it now,

and banish this careful garden,
this house standing behind us
brilliant with light, its windows
open on hushed unaltered rooms.