In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: ‘Parallel Lives’

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

Follow the Science

James Butler

Three from the WardMatt Simpson
Vol. 10 No. 15 · 1 September 1988

Three from the Ward

Matt Simpson

216 words

for U.A. Fanthorpe


A Busby-Berkeley stunner: thirty-second sequence
of curtains swished back one after one all down the ward.
I’m standing near my bed, a raw recruit, screened off
and hushed.

Then trundlings and swivellings
on polished boards, quickly in and quickly out,
and final curtains scraped back one by one.

‘Behind you! Through the window!’ next-bed said.

There in the open a metal box on wheels
and grinning porters rattling one of us away.

On the Mend

Allowed up. A second day
of clattering the tea urn round
to beds with lungs that squelch,
arteries like fog-crazed motorways;
who scream their lumbar puncturings;
beds spiked with catheters and drips;
whose rawness keeps us all awake.

Word’s gone ahead. I was the ‘last
to speak to him’ – cursed yesterday
gazing hopefully into something shrivelled
that vaguely shook its head.


At the end of a careless fortnight
they come for me, bringing shoes;
repossess my tapes and books, a still
uneaten orange. Angina in the next bed
writes an address in case I want to buy
his car.

Bristling with advice –
throw away the frying-pan, cut out
the Weed, don’t get your leg over
immediately –

outside, I bite
the granny smith of autumn air
and stiffen myself to meet the dog.

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