Andrew Motion

The Camp

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Near the dogleg turn of the lane down to the ponies’ field,

skulking in summer among cow parsley and meadow sweet,

in winter with their streaked black corrugated walls laid bare,

were the half-dozen Nissen huts my father refused to mention.

A prisoner of war camp for Italian soldiers, my mother told me,

but also part of the silence my father had brought back with him

ten years before from Germany which now could not be ended

although the reason for that was one more thing he never gave.

Why spoil an early morning stroll bringing halters for the ponies

so we could lead them home to the stable yard then saddle up?

What else could there possibly be on earth for us to talk about

that was more interesting than a blackbird calling in the hedge,

or the swarming hawthorn flowers that smelled faintly of drains,

or the rain cloud that he always said was only a clearing shower?