In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

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.

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