Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Andrew Motion

The Message

In Memory of Sarah Raphael


A crystal mid-winter Saturday dawn
and the names of things the same

as things themselves: flash-over frost
sealing my garden square; the ash tree

perfectly matched by its ghost in mist;
unshakeable hush through the street.

I take it all in as I climb the stairs
to my room, completely at home

yet free of cash and jacket I need
before I go out to the world.

And here on my desk is the toad-head
jewel in my telephone winking.

Why should I answer it now? This moment
is mine. But I do. I answer it feeling

the terror which started inside me
a lifetime ago, and that’s how I hear

you are dead. The peaceable street;
the ash in its trance; the frost:

these all look exactly the same. What’s new
is the crash of them splitting apart from their names.


I rang your number
and heard your voice
on the answerphone ⎯
un-deliberate grace

in a message-rush,
and your hasty fall
on the word good-bye,
though you were well

when you set it down,
and never knew
how it might endure,
outliving you

like the travelling light
of a snuffed-out star
spearheaded to meet
the ignorant stare

of us below,
who blink and look,
and are not sure
which things to take

in our little mist
of breath-by-breath
as signs of life
and which of death.


In your telephone
the tape has been changed, and now the glib machine
remembers only a new regime.

In your desk
a tidy number of unopened letters lie
bearing your name and the brand of missing days.

In your studio
the bubble-cartons of all your brilliant ideas
have reached the ceiling, and stuck, and will not stir.

In your children’s room
the spine of our favourite book is aching to bend
open, and let the story end.


Glamourpuss said...

I have a grudging respect for Motion, but am one of those who felt that Carol Ann Duffy should've been Laureate.

This is lovely, 'though.


August said...

She's a special one. Closer to my sensibility than Motion. But I do appreciate his flat tone.