top of page

The Gardener by Andrew Motion


In Memory of Lieutenant Mark Evison



We spent

many hours kneeling together in the garden

so many hours

Mark was

he liked lending a hand


watching Gardener’s World


building compost heaps


or the brick path with the cherry tree

that grows over it now       the white cherry

where I thought       I mustn’t cry

I must behave

as if he’s coming back





It was just after Easter

with everything in leaf


he is so sweet really

though worldly

before his time


I kissed him and said

See you

in six months       and he turned round


he turned round and said




I opened the garden for the first time


the National Gardens Scheme

you know

what gardens are like in May


and this man was hovering

outside the front


as we walked down the side passage

he said

I’m a Major


I said

O my son       he’s in the army

sort of brightly




Then no one was there


so I went

and I gardened all day


how slow       how satisfying


I felt next morning

he was struggling for his life




He would be home

with three transfers

in three different planes


and if he died they would ring me

and they would go back

and they would not keep coming


my daughter Elizabeth and I drove to Birmingham

my mobile       there       on the dashboard


we had worked out the times of the last plane

and we arrived

and they still hadn’t called me

and he was still




He was lying       he was

with this


with this big plastic hole

sort of

a bandage over a hole

just like





The reindeer       the wild reindeer

giving birth in the snow

with the rest of the herd scarpering


they have seen the eagle above them


but the mother stands still

what am I going to do       what


a bit restless       and everything

but starting to lick her baby

with the eagle       watching




Quietened       that is the best word

to describe it       I felt quietened

seeing the hills below

as we came into Kabul


I was thinking


Mark lived in a very green place

and here everything is purple

orange       Turner colours I call them


In my imagination he is never dead

bandaged       lost       never dead

with my love


nowhere to go


I was thinking


thousands of lives

in an instant

and the molecules starting again

and the mountains never changing


how was I




but for a moment

I was

then losing height

with the brown earth rushing to meet me.

bottom of page