In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson


Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

Three PoemsCharles Simic

Firecracker Salesman

I was drumming on my bald head with a pencil,
Making a list of my sins. Well, not exactly.
I was in bed smoking a cigar and reading
In the Sunday papers about a Jesus-lookalike
Who won a pie-eating contest in Texas.

Is there some unsuspected dignity to this foolishness?
I inquired of the large stain on the ceiling.
Is someone about to slip a note under my door
Summoning me urgently to a meeting
Of indecipherable purpose and significance?

Hell, I’m only a firecracker salesman of sorts.
It’s almost year 2000, so I called room service.
A talking dog would liven up the party,
And so would Miss Atlantic City 1964
I remember jumping out of a white birthday cake.

Nobody answered. There was a politician on TV
It would be a real pleasure to spit at in person.
Over the rooftops eeriness loomed large,
Small, baleful gusts whipped the trash in the street
And the vacancy signs were everywhere.

The Mouse in the Radio

After the late, late news,
You plucked up courage
To scratch a few times
On the wall of your hideaway.

Now that the lights are out,
Feeling the cold,
The bleak solitude,
And so sending out a query,

Or perhaps a heartfelt greeting?
On this starless,
Dateless and otherwise
Largely pitiless night

The Lives of Alchemists

The great labour was always to efface oneself,
Reappear as something entirely different:
The pillow of a young woman in love,
A ball of lint pretending to be a spider.

Black boredoms of rainy country nights
Thumbing the writings of illustrious adepts
Offering advice on how to proceed with the transmutation
Of a figment of time into eternity.
The true master, one of them counselled,
Needs a hundred years to perfect his art

In the meantime, the small arcana of the frying-pan,
The smell of olive oil and garlic wafting
From room to empty room, the black cat
Rubbing herself against your bare leg
While you shuffle toward the distant light
And the tinkle of glasses in the kitchen.

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