In the latest issue:

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Anglo-America Loses its Grip

Pankaj Mishra

Short Cuts: John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness

Mattathias Schwartz

Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas

Mrs Oliphant

Tom Crewe

Tippett’s Knack

Philip Clark

At Tate Modern: Steve McQueen

Colin Grant

Catherine Lacey

Nicole Flattery

Churchill’s Cook

Rosemary Hill

The ‘Batrachomyomachia’

Ange Mlinko

On Dorothea Lange

Joanna Biggs

Paid to Race

Jon Day

Poem: ‘Traveller’s Tales: Chapter 90’

August Kleinzahler

The Soho Alphabet

Andrew O’Hagan

Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley

Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism

Tariq Ali

The Murdrous Machiavel

Erin Maglaque

Diary: Insane after coronavirus?

Patricia Lockwood

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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