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

The Cake UncutAllen Curnow
Close
Close
Vol. 22 No. 4 · 17 February 2000
Poem

The Cake Uncut

Allen Curnow

316 words

i

Not him – he’s where
no fears can find

nor torments touch
him – it’s his Mum

has the details,
who told the head-

master, who talked
to the press.

           Dad
only just gone

for the takeaways
at KFC,

when he says – quiet,
sort of sudden,

you’d hardly know
it was him speaking –

‘Can’t wait any more
for Dad, I’ve got

to go now – no,
just tired again,

like yesterday’ – that
was when I knew

how it had to be,
like he said, now.

ii

We’re very religious
people. We sing,

we pray to God
to make the lump

go away, if that’s
His will – it still

swells up, and up
so big you’d never

believe, it could
be a football

there in the leg.
The lady kept

at us, why don’t
you see the doctor?

Try everything.
What harm can that

possibly do?
Made him sick – no

way would he keep
anything down –

medicine killing him, we
threw it all out.

Never went back.
No one’s come near

till the police –
God knows we’ve done

nothing like what
they said – his life’s

necessities – our own
heart’s blood was his

if it would save him –
I always hear

him say now, the moment
before it was.

iii

Funny dream.
              Dad’s

in bed with me
and that come-dom

thing on, and says
how do you like

my Mexican hat?
That’s where we’re going

when the Lotto money
comes, people get

cured there, like that
kid on the talkback –

something about
apricot stones –

iv

Shame not to cut the
cake with his twelve

candles on. God’ll
have you up and running

again, for your
birthday, I’m saying

and we’ll all see
the Millennium in –

he’d’ve loved that so,
every minute, even

knowing, all along,
what never was meant.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

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