In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson


Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

Memories of the Linen RoomCraig Raine
Vol. 1 No. 3 · 22 November 1979

Memories of the Linen Room

Craig Raine

187 words

‘Fetch me the handkerchief; my mind misgives …’

Othello (III, iv, 89)

In the dormitory, boys laced up
their rugby boots like parcels,

knowing the mud outside would add
that final touch of scaling wax.

It’s taken them twenty years
to be delivered by an accident:

I see a pint of gritty mussels
for sale and think of wet boots

on the changing-room floor.
The fishmonger’s cold red hands

are locked in a scrum and I feel
a strange nostalgie de la boue,

for mud stamped to a solitaire board,
as if a puzzle were suddenly solved.

My hair still wet from the shower,
I’m going again to the linen room.

Daylight glows under a door
like the bar of an electric fire.

Inside are six ironed handkerchiefs
that represent home to a boy

for whom almost anything will do,
except the matron’s labrador

bending by the bicycle sheds
to its inch of lipstick

the colour of rhubarb. He comes
instead to the linen room, this boy

whose heart is like a bathing-suit,
heavy with sand and sally water,

five hundred miles from the sea.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences