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Your postcard came

Andrew Motion

Your postcard came: a snap of Mediterranean blue

and bright chatter ending: How are you?


How am I? How are you is what I want to know -

last month checked over, stitched up, blasted with chemo


and now adrift, floating through days of slow sun

with one part of life finished, the next not yet begun.


And something else. I want to know too why the hell

last time you came to visit me at home I couldn’t tell


how much better I might have made you feel

(no, ‘loved’, not “better”; “better” is too genteel)


if, instead of slipping out into the garden quietly

to pick apples from our wet-leaved, sagging tree


- you said you felt like sleeping - I had just stayed close

and kept you talking. What came over me? Did I suppose


we’ll always have enough time left for that?

That’s shit.


The second I had propped

my ladder gingerly against the tree and crept


inside its brittle globe - hold tight! a child again! -

and started rattling down the apple-rain,


I looked aside and found your watchful face

inside the window like a silhouette of ice


and melting - skin becoming water and then air

before I stretched to pull the apples near,


the apples swelling air and water in their new-made skin.

How am I? I shall tell you then.


I’m wishing you were here and, well, that’s all.

Not thinking how I climbed while you were waiting for the fall.


From Magma No. 8 (Winter 1996)