In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

Close
Close

This is not the point,
but you had only to look at your soft red atlas
to have it fall open where years ago you had written
PERSIA for some reason, AFGANISTAN and KASHMIR,
adrift in your schoolgirl dream of ancient and modern.

The point is, rather,
that once you had shown me the way into those places,
perched on slabs of frost-shattered rock then floating
on eagle-thermals over the tawny desert, with oasis-lights
like embers dying in ash – when that was done you began

getting back what was lost:
how the Arabic system of counting first made its mark here,
those straggling numerals flocking then freewheeling down
from market towns until they confronted the Romans
in open combat, and won, and all, to start with at least,

without zero.
I can’t really think of the world without nothing to show.
On the other hand, calling to mind some hill-backed place
with a ship-filled river curled into a port, the port itself,
and traders lifting their eyes to the hills is easy – as easy

as looking at you
while I bend again to the atlas with blood running into my face
and think of a naught like a ball bouncing out of the street
and into their books for a time, appalling, but coming to rest
at last between profit and loss, a silence, a breathing space.

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