Home > Poetry > Leaving Belfast
Published: Fri Apr 15 1983
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Leaving Belfast

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.

See what's inside AGNI 18

Andrew Motion is an English poet and biographer. He served as the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009 and was knighted in 2009. He has won awards such as the Somerset Maugham Award and the Whitbread Prize for Biography. (updated 6/2010)

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