In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

Close
Close

They come each evening like virgins to a well:
the girls queuing for the xerox-machine,
braceleted and earmarked, shapely as pitchers
in their stretch Levis or wraparound shirts,
sylphs from the typing-pool bearing the forms
of their masters, the chilly boardroom gods.

But this one, this nervous one, is different.
She doesn’t gossip with the others and pleads,
when it’s her turn, no, you go first.
Not until they’ve gone, their anklets chinking
down the corridor, does she lift the hatch
and dip her trembling hand into the well.

A lightshow begins under the trapdoor:
it flashes and roars, flashes and plashes,
each page the flare of a sabotaged refinery
or the fission of an August storm.
Minutes pass, they slide into the wastebin,
but something is committed for all time.

Sweetface, twoface, little sulky one,
you were never so alone again:
they took a week or more to find you
but they found you, your cheeks lit palely
not from the photocopier’s shuttle
but in the lightning of a Nikon swarm.

And what has this to do with it? How you sat
one night by a heifers’ drinking-trough
near Yelverton, afraid and down-at-heel
in a mud-churned, midge-drizzling negative,
then saw the country rising from its shadow
under the sudden candour of a moon.

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