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From ‘The Price of Everything’

Andrew Motion, 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 ...

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 hand the years have softened like a slip Of soap dissolving when it makes a dive And settles underwater in the pearly-greys Created by what used to be its shape – Or would, if you were here and still alive ...

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 well I want you. Bowing low so your forehead rests on the rumpled tablecloth just for a second, you pour milk in a shallow dish for the cat, as he slouches in out of nowhere, his hollow lap-lap-lapping an almost welcome distraction to stop me pining for you, his tongue steadily clearing the milk like a tiny fog, revealing a woman crossing a blue bridge setting out on a journey, perhaps, or coming back, her parasol raised in salute, her blue cross-hatched hat tipped to deflect the wind, and her eyes distinctly narrowed to blue expressionless flecks by a sudden onrush of light ...

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 oasis-lights like embers dying in ash – when that was done you began getting back what was lost: how the Arabic system of counting first made its mark here, those straggling numerals flocking then freewheeling down from market towns until they confronted the Romans in open combat, and won, and all, to start with at least, without zero ...

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 plans for my villa ...

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 it ...

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 can do, easing off shoes, making light of the dense net of her tights ...

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 field brushing grass to molten silver ...

In Memory of Ruby Yates

Andrew Motion, 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 – red admirals – where he unpacks a canvas from his pram – a clever brush – and makes the green grass open up – the graves too split – dry peapods – and the well- dressed dead fly straight to heaven – some do – others tumble on the grass like picnickers – they’re happy – they’re ecstatic – all brave souls – kind hearts – bright sparks – and one’s a girl – a baby – but my mother – I can tell – my mother and your – what’s the word – your little one – your own though not your own – your loved one all those years to come – those years all come – they do – there’s me now – bright spark on the grass – I’m next in line for you – nanny – that’s the word thank you Stanley, have you finished – finished no not finished but the light is finished this light’s finished ain’t it – off we go – go where now – let me think – so many days – you see – here comes my daughter now – she’s your age Ruby – well – the age you were or one of them – feel that – she’s kissed your face – hello is this – it’s not – a goodbye kiss – and not the churchyard either – this high bed – and you – your skin gone threadbare – parched lips moving – soundless – O – you don’t know what you mean – you don’t – but I know what you mean ...

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 a rise, which meant counting the seconds from crash – one, two – watching a cut-out tank half-hidden by gorse silently stagger – three, four – then the whump of its brisk eruption ...

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 different I might have sat, or you ...

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 ...

The Discoveries of Geography

Andrew Motion, 9 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 ...

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 threadbare carpet into our bed, while men in the country nearby poked long rods in voluptuous hedgerows, streams, rush-clumps, fidgeting over the cracked hillsides shouting Nothing here, flinching at shadows, cursing ...

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 your face for a kiss meant that I caught the broken panicking roar of your heart, and heard, for the very first time, the sound of my own heart falter, slowing down ...

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