In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: ‘Parallel Lives’

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The House of York

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

Follow the Science

James Butler

Two PoemsSelima Hill
Close
Close

Outside a Tent at Babylon, 1909

‘Are you ready?’ calls the German archaeologist,
standing with his back to the sun.
‘We need to see the tent behind you.’
Gertrude Bell steps over the guy-ropes.
She’s got a horrible cold –
caught by lying in a draughty hall
drawing the plans of Ukheidir.

‘When I ask my men,’ she explains,
‘to help me measure the castles,
nothing will induce them to leave
their rifles behind. The measuring-tape
is forever getting caught in the stocks,
and I have to wait for hours
while the idiots disentangle it!’

The German’s the picture of health.
He offers her some Tiger Balm
he picked up in Cappadocia.
He’s been excavating in Iraq for years:
‘Mutti calls me her little Maulwarf!’
‘You seem to have lots of equipment,’
she replies, waiting for him to get ready.

The Goose

Rhamia, their only child, is coming home!
Not since the day they kissed her
and she drove away to be a Muslim
has there been such life at the Vicarage.
They hurry down to the orchard to call Boo,
the goose. She runs up like a lamb
and pokes her white neck into their basket –
on the lookout for food as usual.
In the kitchen Cook is podding bowls of peas
in front of an open recipe book.
Garnish with watercress. Stuff with sage.
She chops up the onions and feels tears
run down her cheeks like mercury.

Rhamia, who used to be called Jenny,
walks out of the drawing-room.
She calls to Abdullah, her son,
Come out to the yard now, and the boy
comes running. His old grandparents
watch him from the window.
He slits the white neck of the goose
with a carving-knife and as the blood
runs over his wrists he calls out
‘Allah! Allah!’ His high child’s voice
rings out across the fields.
Then he takes the body in to Cook,
who is rolling out pastry in the kitchen.

Send Letters To:

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

letters@lrb.co.uk

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