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 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


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

Straw-BurningBlake Morrison

Was it thrup or thrip,
your word for the thunderflies
that came off the cornfield
with the paddlesteaming combine,
like wafted ashes

sticking to our bodies
and warning us of this:
the yellowing page
set alight at one corner,
the burning of straw.

We can see the flames
rushing towards us
like a lynch-mob,
blood in their eye,
tarring and furring,

until the churn and swirl
of the ploughed field-edge
brings them up short
as a river would
yards from our door.

But deaths come bittily
on the evening wind,
mouse bones and finch skulls,
burnt moths and butterflies,
a wedding from hell.

We take them to bed with us:
our charred dreams
are of a leak at Sizewell
or a Green Giant
razing villages and crops.

And this morning they’re inside,
these wisps of corn-soot,
making themselves at home,
feathering every windowsill,
shaken out of rugs

like rooks from a rookery
or depositing their tea-leaves
in our mugs.
And the mile-long fires
hanging their sheets

across the bypass
are our summer’s cremation,
the last of August
like a loose-leaf diary
scattered round the globe.

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