- Interior at Nice
Henri Matisse, 1919 or 1920
When I came up from the world below, from the heat and glare, from white dust thickening the air with its pelt of atoms, I found the shutters to your room closed and for a dreaming moment paused there. It was the submarine green of the wood and parching crackle of the glaze. It was spider-web cauls embalming the hinges, and the shrivelled corpses of their victims shaking slightly in such breeze as blew. It was zebra light-bars crashing silently onto the purple carpet with its diamonds. But then that passed. I pulled or someone pulled the shutters open. There you were.
Just as I had always hoped, it turned out you had been waiting for me all your life. In the end it proved to be perfectly simple. You had put on your plainest ivory frock, American stockings you knew I would like, shiny court shoes, and taken a black chair, the one with dainty legs splayed outwards so it seemed about to collapse at any moment even beneath a weightless weight like yours, crossed your own legs and folded your arms, then let the tide come in and out behind you and the soporific waves repeat themselves [End Page 332] until such time as I appeared to you, or you to me, since I have also been here all my life.
Now we have the rest of our lives to complete let me at least begin with everything in place: the vase of blue and crimson flowers you set off-centre on the dowdy tablecloth (their name will come to me . . . their name will come to me); the wallpaper where golden boughs or golden branches shoot and spread as lavishly as green; the larger, squat and wide-armed yellow chair I seem in my inspection to have climbed above, weightless as I said you were but whereas you stay fixed on your veranda as I found you, I am halfway to the ceiling and might soon be gone for good, except for your fixed gaze and mine which endlessly returns attention back to you. [End Page 333]
ANDREW MOTION served as Poet Laureate of the UK from 1999 to 2009. He now lives in Baltimore. His most recent collection, Coming in to Land, was published by Ecco Press in January 2017.