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.

Uit: Secret narratives (1983)

    • Andrew Motion