In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali

GOD HATES YOUR FEELINGS

James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

Close
Close

Politesse

A memory kissed my mind
  and its courtesy hurt me
On an ancient immaculate lawn
  in an English county
you declared love, but from politesse
  didn’t inform me
that the fine hairs shadowing my lip
  were a charge against me.

Your hair was gods’ gold, curled,
  and your cricketer’s body
tanned – as mine never would tan –
  when we conquered Italy
in an Austin 10 convertible,
  nineteen thirty;
I remember its frangible spokes
  and the way you taught me

to pluck my unsightly moustache
  with a tool you bought me.
I bought us a sapphire, flawed,
  (though you did repay me)
from a thief on the Ponte Vecchio.
  Good breeding made me
share the new tent with Aileen
  while you and Hartley,

in the leaky, unpatchable other,
  were dampened nightly.
If I weren’t virgo intacta,
  you told me sternly,
you’d take me like a cat in heat
  and never respect me.
That was something I thought about
  constantly, deeply,
in the summer of ’54, when I
  fell completely
for a Milanese I only met once
  while tangoing, tipsy,
on an outdoor moon-lit dance-floor.
  I swear you lost me
when he laid light fingers on my lips
  and then, cat-like, kissed me.

A Nightmare for Henry Adams

To Lauris Edmond

Thank you for your postcard from Köln.
It catches the dictatorship of the Cathedral
in the act of rocketing two Gothic crosses
out of reach of the 20th century’s universal
post-war mural: ‘The Dynamo celebrates success
in its putsch against the Virgin.’

What’s that in the foreground, please?
A billowy graveyard, or the polystyrene scenery
someone very well-paid has devised
for the Götterdämmerung?
Those sleek cruisers lashed to the Rhein are hardly
funeral barges; probably they’re for eating on.

Is the chimney, centre right, an import from Toronto?
A competitive spire, slim phoenix of the age,
it rises, wreathed in communications, out of
Deutschland’s reconstructed ashes.
The sky at dusk is a heavenly Virgin blue.
The hot tip gets lost in it, pulsing ‘love, love’.

Send Letters To:

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

letters@lrb.co.uk

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