by Andrew Motion
from "Scanning the Century" ed by Peter Forbes, p. 105
Even now, after twice her lifetime of grief
and anger in the very place, whoever comes
to climb these narrow stairs, discovers how
the bookcase slides aside, then walks through
shadow into sunlit rooms, can never help
but break her secrecy again. Just listening
is a kind of guilt: the Westerkirk repeats
itself outside, as if all time worked round
towards her fear, and made each stroke
die down on guarded streets. Imagine it --
three years of whispering and loneliness
and plotting, day by day, the Allied line
in Europe with a yellow chalk. What hope
she had for ordinary love and interest
survives her here, displayed above the bed
as pictures of her family; some actors;
fashions chosen by Princess Elizabeth.
And those who stoop to see them find
not only patience missing its reward,
but one enduring wish for chances
like my own: to leave as simply
as I do, and walk at ease
up dusty tree-lined avenues, or watch
a silent barge come clear of bridges
settling their reflections in the blue canal.
Anne Frank Huis: the house in Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in a secret annexe at the top of the house until they were betrayed in 1944. Anne Frank and her sister Margot died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Westerkirk: the church close to Anne Frank's House
I read it aloud, and fell in love with the cadence and the emotion. Got choked up a bit, too. Must look for more work by this author.