The White Bear

Andrew Motion

When I discovered his tracks in the ice field        they appeared to have no beginning                and ended in pure black water.Without hesitation I knelt down        and stared into the trembling deep.I saw him swim through darkness        with immense and steady strokes                the violence of his body                        assuaged by phosphorescence        glowing throughout his peltby a slipstream of sand        and small particles of rock                such as also appear in the night sky                        when meteors are scudding overhead.                                                    *One day        in the course of his earthly existence        he lived in solitude eating snowthe next        he was accompanied by replicas of himself        grazing the tundra like hogs on a commonone day        he held his breath underwater for hours        striking his prey from below like a waterspoutthe next        he had fooled them into thinking his nose        was the black dot of a meal dozing on the horizonone day        he shunted before him ice blocks the size of cars        and used them as a shield that made him invisiblethe next        he lifted and hurled these same blocks as easily as dice        and so crushed his victims or battered out their brains.                                                    *In the centuries of worship I meant to represent him        but only managed to carve my own skeleton.I touched him in my mind and prized this connection        but realised my fear was his greatest gift to me.I regularly ingested a part of his body with all due ceremony        but suffered abysmal headaches and lost patches of my skin.                                                    *For these reasons I have chosen not to prevent him                    escaping from me entirely.I have closed my ears and eyes        when the ice floes groan                    and glaciers express their gigantic grief.When the earth stalls        and vaporous purple lights                    stream from its parching gears.I have decided to make a new home for myself        with hot showers and a table                    reliable internet connection                            a wardrobe                                    and a lifetime of dry clothes.

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Andrew Motion is professor of creative writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and co-founder of the online Poetry Archive. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, and has published four celebrated biographies. His group study The Lamberts won the Somerset Maugham Award and his authorized life of Philip Larkin won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. Motion was knighted in the United Kingdom for his services to poetry in 2009.

Andrew Motion’s expansive new poetry collection is direct in its emotional appeal and ambitious in its scope, all while retaining the cinematic vision and startling expression that so freshly lit the lines of his last, Essex Clay.

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