In the latest issue:

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Anglo-America Loses its Grip

Pankaj Mishra

Short Cuts: John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness

Mattathias Schwartz

Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas

Mrs Oliphant

Tom Crewe

Tippett’s Knack

Philip Clark

At Tate Modern: Steve McQueen

Colin Grant

Catherine Lacey

Nicole Flattery

Churchill’s Cook

Rosemary Hill

The ‘Batrachomyomachia’

Ange Mlinko

On Dorothea Lange

Joanna Biggs

Paid to Race

Jon Day

Poem: ‘Traveller’s Tales: Chapter 90’

August Kleinzahler

The Soho Alphabet

Andrew O’Hagan

Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley

Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism

Tariq Ali

The Murdrous Machiavel

Erin Maglaque

Diary: Insane after coronavirus?

Patricia Lockwood

Two PoemsMark Ford


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.

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