In the small hours
I slipped back to childhood for a moment

and lay in my old bed with its view of the chestnut tree.
It was winter

and you had just died;
I was excited, still thinking your death was a thing apart

which soon I would put in the ground like a body
to visit from time to time, and otherwise forget.

But take Ruth,
who drowned last week.

I used to fancy her –
now all I think
is what water can do,
easing off shoes,
making light
of the dense net of her tights.

To hell with out of place!
The pissy Thames is rubbing away your face!

I dropped off
and dreamed I was in the Black Museum

where I met a woman six inches high,
hollow, white tunic, blue-green sash at the waist,

holding a basket of flames.
Her china face

had its features kissed away,
but the eyes were yours.

You could tell at a glance why some idiot thought
she was worth nothing at all.

Daylight breaks
and my children trawl
the drizzling passage
from their room to mine
which takes them years
but is only a step.

Sunk on the bed
of a parched well
where sleep ran out,
I stare overhead
and brace myself
for their circle of eyes.

The time they arrive
is the time they go –
their almost inaudible
blobs of mouth
ooh-ing and aah-ing
like shouting fish:

We searched for ever
to find your door,
and even then
it was always locked.
Wake up, damn you.
Wish us good luck.

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.

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