In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

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

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

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