In the latest issue:

The Politics of Like and Dislike

William Davies

The Shrine

Alan Bennett

After the Shock

Adam Tooze

Punishment by Pressing

Hazel V. Carby

The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders

Short Cuts: Thanington Without

Patrick Cockburn

The Lessons of Reconstruction

Randall Kennedy

Company-States

Linda Colley

Eva Hesse

Anne Wagner

Parachuted into France

Neal Ascherson

The Age of Sail

N.A.M. Rodger

Poem: ‘Near Gleann nam Fiadh’

Robin Robertson

‘You People’

Clare Bucknell

What Didn’t Happen

Michael Wood

Forster in Cambridge

Richard Shone

Diary: In Ashgabat

James Lomax

Close
Close

At first it was only an imperceptible quivering of the skin –
‘As you wish’ – where the flesh is darkest.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ – Nothing. Milky dreams
of embraces; next morning, though,
the other looks different, strangely bony.
Razor-sharp misunderstandings. ‘That time, in Rome –’
I never said that. A pause. And furious palpitations,
a sort of hatred, strange. ‘That’s not the point.’
Repetitions. Radiantly clear, this certainty:
From now on all is wrong. Odourless and sharp,
like a passport photo, this unknown person
with a glass of tea at table, with staring eyes.
It’s no good, no good, no good:
litany in the head, a slight nausea.
End of reproaches. Slowly the whole room
Fills with guilt right up to the ceiling.
This complaining voice is strange, only not
the shoes that drop with a bang, not the shoes.
Next time, in an empty restaurant,
slow motion, bread crumbs, money is discussed,
laughing. The dessert tastes of metal.
Two untouchables. Shrill reasonableness.
‘Not so bad really.’ But at night
the thoughts of vengeance, the silent fight, anonymous
like two bony barristers, two large crabs
in water. Then the exhaustion. Slowly
the scab peels off. A new tobacconist,
a new address. Pariahs, horribly relieved.
Shades growing paler. These are the documents.
This is the bunch of keys. This is the scar.

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