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The Politics of Like and Dislike

William Davies

The Shrine

Alan Bennett

After the Shock

Adam Tooze

Punishment by Pressing

Hazel V. Carby

The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders

Short Cuts: Thanington Without

Patrick Cockburn

The Lessons of Reconstruction

Randall Kennedy

Company-States

Linda Colley

Eva Hesse

Anne Wagner

Parachuted into France

Neal Ascherson

The Age of Sail

N.A.M. Rodger

Poem: ‘Near Gleann nam Fiadh’

Robin Robertson

‘You People’

Clare Bucknell

What Didn’t Happen

Michael Wood

Forster in Cambridge

Richard Shone

Diary: In Ashgabat

James Lomax

Two PoemsFleur Adcock
Close
Close

Romania

Suddenly it’s gone public; it rushed out
into the light like a train out of a tunnel.
People I’ve met are faces in the government,
shouting on television, looking older.

A man who came to see me once, for breakfast
at my hotel, and was dazzlingly indiscreet
about the system – there, in front of the waiters –
is Head of Broadcasting this week.

The country sizzles with freedom. The air-waves
tingle. The telephone lines are all jammed.
I can’t get through to my friends. Are they safe?
                                    They’re safe,
but I need to hear it from them. Instead

I’ll play the secret tape I made in the orchard
two years ago, at Ciorogila.
We’re talking in two languages, mine and theirs,
laughing, interrupting each other;

the geese in the peasants’ yard next door
are barking like dogs; the children are squawking,
chasing each other, picking fruit;
the little boy brings me a flower and a carrot.

We’re drinking must – blood-pink, frothy –
and a drop of unofficial tuica:
‘What do the peasants drink in your country? –
Oh, I forgot, you don’t have peasants.’

It’s dusk. The crickets have started up:
Zing-zing, zing-zing, like telephones
over the static. Did it really happen?
Is it possible? ‘Da, da!’ say the geese.

227 Peel Green Road

Failing their flesh and bones we have the gatepost.
Failing the bride in her ostrich-feathered hat,
the groom bracing his shoulders for the camera,
we have the garden wall, the path, and the gatepost:

not the original gatepost, but positioned
in exactly the same relation to the house –
just as the windows have been modernised
but we can see their dimensions are the same

as the ones behind the handsome brothers’ heads
under their wedding bowlers. The gatepost
stands to the left, where nine-year-old Nellie
ought to be standing, in her home-made dress,

her boots and stockings and white hair-ribbon,
leaning her wistful head against Marion –
her next-best sister, who will have to do
now that Eva’s married and going away.

Father and Mother, corpulent on chairs,
young Harry wincing in his Fauntleroy collar,
James in his first hard hat, a size too large,
have faded away from bricks and wood and metal.

Failing the sight of Mary, flowered and frilled,
the married sister, simpering on the arm
of Abraham with his curled moustache (the swine:
he’ll leave her, of course) we may inspect the drainpipe:

not the authentic late-Victorian drainpipe
but just where that one was, convincing proof
(together with the gatepost and the windows)
that this is it, all right: the very house –

unless it’s not; unless that was a stand-in,
one the photographer preferred that day
and lined them up in front of, because the sun
was shining on it; as it isn’t now.

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