Poem introduction

In the house where I grew up we didn't have very many books, or spend very much time talking about reading or about what books might contain. But one of the books I did know was The Diary of Anne Frank and in my early twenties I went to visit her house in Amsterdam and immediately after seeing it wrote this poem about it.

Anne Frank Huis


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.

from Selected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2002), copyright © Andrew Motion 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion Downloads

1In the Attic


2Anne Frank Huis


3The Letter


4A Blow to the Head


5The Spoilt Child


6To Whom It May Concern


7Goethe in the Park


8On the Table


9Fresh Water




11The Dog of the Light Brigade




13A Glass of Wine


14The Fox Provides for Himself


15Closing the Curtains


16Red Gloves






19Passing On

20The Mower

21The Life of Harry Patch

22The Death of Harry Patch

23Now Then

24A Pine Cone

25The Gardener

26Holy Island

27The Discoveries of Geography



30The Fish in Australia

31The Mill

32Laying the Fire

33Through the Lych Gate

Books by Andrew Motion