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Leaving Belfast

by Andrew Motion

                     for Craig Raine

Driving at dusk on the steep road
north to the airport, ‘Look back,’
you say, ‘The finest view of Belfast,’
and point, proud of your choice to stay.

How clear the rows of streetlamps show
which way we came. I trace them slope
by slope through marshlands slipping down
to lanes, and find the roofs again,

their stern geographies of punishment
and love where silence deepens under rain.
Each sudden gust of light explains itself
as flames, but neither they, nor even

bombs redoubled on the hills tonight
can quite include me in their fear.
What does remains invisible, is lost
in curt societies whose deaths become

revenge by morning, and whose homes
are nothing more than all they pity most.
I watch the moon above them, filling rooms
with shadow politics, though whether

voices there pronounce me an intruder,
traitor, or a friend, I leave them now
as much a stranger as I came, and turn
to listen in the twilight for their griefs,

but hear instead the promise of conclusion
fading fast towards me through these miles
of stubborn gorse, until it disappears
at last in darkness, out beyond the coast.

 

Andrew Motion was born in London in 1952 and read English at University College, Oxford. He has published two critical studies, The Poetry of Edward Thomas (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980) and Philip Larkin (Methuen, 1982). Co-editor with Blake Morrison of The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry (1982), he is now editor of Poetry Review. Salamander Press will publish his new collection, Secret Narratives, later this year. (1983)


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