In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane

Tativille

David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Close
Close

From the mansion staircase the marble floor is a chessboard
And she is a round plump pawn moving from square to square
Scrubbing that floor clean,

While up above, the detective watches her
As rounds of light pick out this object and that,
Saying: this belongs to the guilty party,
As does this, and this, and this,

And on the chessboard that is his mind,
He moves them from place to place, and in minutes
The guilty one has sunk into the floor, knee-deep
While the innocent erratically and guiltily ascend
Like angels newly made.

But life is not like that.

There is no innocence or guilt in the thick and trackless wood,
No intention in the leaves covering the footprints as they fall
So that the wanderer who has unwittingly turned his face
To the hungry dark cannot be followed,
Coaxed to turn back to the light.

The wolves, too, are innocent, their strong jaws hungry,
Their joints of polished steel, running darkly through the dark,
As the night would run, could it run,
And if they overtake him in the clearing, in the wood,
Where he pauses to look up at the bright, blind moon

His blood is another kind of rain
And the earth accepts it as it accepts everything that falls.

The wind in the blood, the storm in the heart,
The wolves in the skull seeing with your eyes,
Speaking with your voice,
There is innocence here, and mystery,

And he chews on his pipe as the light pools and clots,
And Watson is dead, has he killed Watson?
As the room gets darker, he grows smaller and smaller,
A random wind whirls him up and higher up,
Until he is only a tiny black dot of dust
Temporarily blocking a star.

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