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56 Upper Ground,

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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

Mark

with this big plastic hole

sort of

a bandage over a hole

just like

asleep

 

*

 

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

circling

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

quietened

how

 

but for a moment

I was

then losing height

with the brown earth rushing to meet me.