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

The Inequality Engine

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

Last night the sea dreamed it was Greta ScacchiClive James
Vol. 10 No. 4 · 18 February 1988

Last night the sea dreamed it was Greta Scacchi

Clive James

268 words

Last night the sea dreamed it was Greta Scacchi.
It wakes unruffled, lustrous, feeling sweet –
Not one breath of scandal has ever touched it.

At a higher level, the rain has too much power.
Grim clouds conspire to bring about its downfall.
The squeeze is on, there is bound to be a shake-out.

The smug sea and the sky that will soon go bust
Look like antagonists, but don’t be fooled:
They understand each other very well.

We are caught between the hammer and the anvil.
Our bodies, being umpteen per cent water,
Are in this thing up to the neck at least.

If you want to feel detached from a panorama,
Try the Sahara. Forget about Ayers Rock –
The sea was once all over it like a rash.

The water in the opal makes it lovely,
Also unlucky. If not born in October
You might be wearing a cloudburst for a pendant.

The ban on flash photography is lifted.
The reception area expectantly lights up.
No contest. It’s just life. Don’t try to fight it –

You’ll only get wet through, and we are that
Already. Every dimple in the swell
Is a drop in the ocean, but then who isn’t?

No, nothing about women is more sensual
Than their sea smell. Look at her lying there,
Taking what comes and spreading it on her skin –

The cat, she’s using her cream as moisturiser.
Milt Jackson’s mallets bounce on silver leaves.
Strafed by cool riffs she melts in silent music:

Once we walked out on her, but we’ll be back.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

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