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Julian Barnes

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David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

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Thomas Jones

In 1348

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Secrets are like sex

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At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

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Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

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Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

Two PoemsMark Ford
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of whatever you are absorbing with your
five senses is forbidden, and may provoke
nausea, insomnia, loss of balance or blurred
vision: it were better you retire, and then
attack, hurling weapons and imprecations
at the diffident foe. The world averts
its gaze, and unfortunate schemers drag
their woes from home to muddy fields: all
roads lead to rooms, as the Irish say, and
to windows through which one stares at the seething clouds.

One Indian summer, when the future
seemed to beckon with a double-jointed
finger, I took to loitering with uncertain
intent in the neutral, unblinking eye
of a slyly angled closed-circuit security
camera: when I yawned or stooped, somewhere
my grainy image followed suite. Shoppers paused
and threw me quizzical, sidelong glances. I perched
defiantly on the rim of a huge stone tub
of ferns, which I remembered, as they brushed my hair,
were thought by some to be about the oldest plants
on the planet. A portly, middle-aged
man in uniform, sporting mirror shades, ambled
towards me: I could tell he was bothered by the unseasonable
weather by the way my own features stretched and loomed.

He Aims

his catapult, and broods. Quivering washing
festoons the neighbouring gardens, and the sky lours
like a rival consortium, poised to swoop. ‘Be

afraid’ is his weird sort of motto. At dusk
clear divisions unfurl and dissolve; deluded
insects plunge frantically into pools and wedges

of soft, dizzying light. Scaly, half-formed scabs
begin to itch, then burn. The argument flies either
over the hedge, or from A to B and back again.

                                     *

As a child’s tongue probes a wobbly milk-tooth,
one is drawn to the far-flung, imperishable scenes featured
in a company calendar: veldt, ice-floes, desert, miles

of prairie. Under the gentle aegis of a wide-
angled lens, earth and sky exchange elaborate
favours. The greyish remains of an unlucky midge

streak the aureate canyons of Death Valley. A herd
of startled antelope gallop into the sunset: out
of frame a lion pursues, because his name is lion.

                                     *

The conflict never ends, thought the crowd chants
for a while before filtering home. The seasons revolve,
bringing honour and disgrace: flickering string of price-

sensitive data orbit the world like molten, almost
invisible meteors. Look up and tremble; while the tongue
slurs and mangles yet more, ever-vaguer

resolutions, the body is talking its ten, horribly
deliberate paces. Eventually, if only to break
the eerie silence, he turns, closes both eyes, and fires.

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