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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

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John Guy

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Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

The Ice HotelMatthew Sweeney
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I’m going back to the ice hotel,
this time under a false name
as I need to stay there again.

I’ll stand in the entrance hall,
marvelling at this year’s design,
loving the way it can’t be the same

because ice melts and all here is ice –
the walls, the ceiling, the floor,
the seats in the lobby, the bed.

Not that I lay on naked ice,
but on the skins of reindeers,
piled high, as on a sled.

First, though, I went to the bar –
no beer, only vodka –
and I met my sculptor there,

or I should say, my ice sculptor
whose pieces were on display
in every room in the ice hotel,

and who told me his name was Thor.
We stood in that ice-blue light
swapping whisper after whisper,

drinking vodka after vodka
till we agreed to go to bed,
and neither of us slept that night.

Let me tell you about that bed –
ice pillars, two foot high,
each with a lit candle on top,

and wedged in the middle of each
the four corners of an ice sheet
three, maybe four, inches thick.

On this the pelts were laid,
then the Polar Survival bag
that the two of us climbed inside.

Next morning, over Arctic char,
he offered me any sculpture
but which could I take home?

And I didn’t want to go home
but I went. Now I’m going back –
back to the latest ice hotel

with its blue ice, its silence,
its flickering candlelight,
its sculptures I can claim.

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