In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

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


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

In Memory of Ruby YatesAndrew Motion
Vol. 20 No. 19 · 1 October 1998

In Memory of Ruby Yates

Andrew Motion

293 words

Here comes Stanley Spencer
with his pram – his bowl-cut –
and his crazy-uncle specs –
so this must be your childhood

Ruby – must be Cookham –
must be 19 – 19-what –
is nothing black and white –
what sort of question’s that –

the war has come and gone –
let’s call it 1920 and you ten –
and look there’s Stanley
turning in the churchyard –

cherry’s out – the purple
buddleia – red admirals –
where he unpacks a canvas
from his pram – a clever brush –

and makes the green grass
open up – the graves too split –
dry peapods – and the well-
dressed dead fly straight

to heaven – some do –
others tumble on the grass
like picnickers – they’re happy –
they’re ecstatic – all brave souls –

kind hearts – bright sparks –
and one’s a girl – a baby –
but my mother – I can tell –
my mother

and your – what’s the word –
your little one – your own
though not your own –
your loved one

all those years to come –
those years all come –
they do – there’s me now –
bright spark on the grass –

I’m next in line for you –
nanny – that’s the word
thank you Stanley, have you finished –
finished no not finished

but the light is finished
this light’s finished ain’t it
off we go – go where now –
let me think – so many days –

you see – here comes
my daughter now – she’s your age
Ruby – well – the age you were
or one of them – feel that –

she’s kissed your face – hello
is this – it’s not – a goodbye kiss –
and not the churchyard either –
this high bed – and you –

your skin gone threadbare –
parched lips moving – soundless –
O – you don’t know what you mean –
you don’t – but I know what you mean.

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