BOOKS / Contemporary Poets: 11 Andrew Motion

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Since The Pleasure Steamers, published in 1978 when he was 26, Andrew Motion has produced five further collections of poetry, the most recent of which was Love in Life (1991). During this time his work has moved away from the 'secret narratives' for which his early story-poems became known towards a more intense and fragmented lyrical style. The poem here is part of a new book-length work, Lines of Desire, which will

be published by Faber next year.

A Modern Ecstasy

When I was a boy with my father right behind me

he shooed me out one day in the early morning

with a gun tucked under my arm and said: why not

walk round for an hour and see what you can find.

I followed our tatty hedge which led me past

the Ashground, then the pond filled in with bricks,

then the Council tip, and then the water-meadows

where I stopped, and felt the emptiness, and wanted to go back.

I saw the hoar-frost sunlit on the line of sycamores

which staggered with the river in its twisting bed;

I heard the snow-crust hardening the grass which creaked

and grumbled as I flicked the safety-catch and moved ahead.

I hated it: the signs of people, then the lack of them;

the ugliness, and then that crystal beauty flooding in.

I don't know why. My feelings were my own.

My life was mine. My life was everything.

So when the hare appeared I didn't hesitate.

Before it cleared the line of sycamores I had it

covered, waiting for my moment, which was when

it sat down door-stop still, the long ears brindled white,

the short-lashed eyes, the split and quizzical top lip all fixed

for ever as I bowled it over, so at any time

thereafter I might call them up, and see the blood-filled nose again,

the clotted fur, the gleaming brain wide open to the air

as I do now, tip-toeing forward through the bedroom dark

towards you in your cot to hear you breathe, to loom above

your milky-smelling body and your hare-lipped face

for no especial reason, just for love.