THE MOWER by Andrew Motion

The Mower by Andrew Motion (1952-)

With storm-light in the east but no rain yet
I came in from mowing my square of lawn
and paused in the doorway to glance around
at my handiwork and the feckless apple blossom

blurring those trim stripes and Hovver-sweeps
I had meant to last. What I saw instead was you
in threadbare cords, catching the sunny interval
between showers, trundling the Ransome out

from its corner in the woodshed. The dizzy whiff
of elm-chips and oil. Joke-shop spider-threads
greying the rubber handles. Gravel pips squeaking
as the roller squashed through the yard. Then a hush

like the pause before thunder while you performed
your ritual of muffled curses and forehead-wipes,
your tugs on the glistening string starter-cable,
more curses, more furious yanks, until at long last

the engine sulked, got over it, sighed a grey cloud
speckled with petrol-bits, and wobbled into a roar.
Off came the brake, and off charged the machine,
dragging you down to the blazing Tree of Heaven

at the garden end, where the trick was to reverse

from the way your whole body lurched lopsided
on the turn this was less than a hundred percent true.
Getting the job finished was all we ever wanted,
parked with our cricket things and happy enough

to wait, since experience had taught us that after
you’d unhooked the big green metal grass-basket
splodged with its Royal Appointment transfer,
lugged it off to the smoking heap by the compost,

thumped it empty, then re-appeared to give us
the thumbs up, we were allowed to burst suddenly
out like dogs into the sweet air, measure the pitch
between our studious stump-plantings, toss to see

who went in first, then wait for you to turn up again
from the woodshed where you had taken five minutes
to wipe the blades down, and switch the petrol off,
and polish the grass-bucket although it never would

shine up much, being what you called venerable.
You always did come back, that was the thing.
As you also come back now in the week you died,
just missing the first thick gusts of rain and the last

Andrew Motion was Britain’s Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009. “The Mower” was first published in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) on May 4, 2007. It is an elegy on his father. The description of a past memory involving his father is straightforward, is almost prosaic, except for the regular metrical pattern, and the division of the text into four-line stanzas. Though, at a glance, the word “feckless” (line 4) seems to fit the poem itself better than it does “the apple blossom” perhaps, the feeling engendered is genuine – sadness mixed with amusement at his recalling of his comical view of his father in that context when he was alive.
The word that is spelt here as “Hovver” must be “Hoover”’ I think. This is a simple English poem which we Sri Lankans too can easily respond to.

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