In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane

Tativille

David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Staggering AshoreHarry Clifton
Close
Close
Vol. 18 No. 9 · 9 May 1996
Poem

Staggering Ashore

Harry Clifton

180 words

Staggering ashore, on Prospero’s island,
Making a landfall, in Twelfth Night,
Illyria, or the coast of Ireland –
Caught, I would be indicted,

So, as usual, the disguise
Before striking inland.
But how will I be recognised
And who will understand

That I am brother to my sister,
Son, or rightful heir?
Malvolio, the ill-wisher,
Lurks under every stair,

And Caliban, in the marram grass
Of Booterstown sloblands
Sticks in the mud of drunkenness,
Old stay-at-home, old rainy-day friend.

Minor angels, minor demons
Whizz like irritants round my ears –
Voices, the shadows of peers,
The images of women

Coming near, unclasping hooks
In bedrooms, keeping the tragic
At bay; and the drowned books
Rising, to work hidden magic

On whatever isle this be.
I start to recognise the place –
Pigeon House, the Irish Sea,
Foghorns, an industrial haze,

And then, the mythic hinterland
Where fathers and daughters
Say goodbye, and the husband
Walks on charmed waters

To the marriage. Years before,
I had lost my home here, found a wife
Sequestered, where I swam ashore
From the old, shipwrecked life.

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