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

Three PoemsCharles Simic

Wooden Church

It’s just a boarded-up shack with a tower
Under the blazing summer sky
On a back road seldom travelled
Where the shadows of tall trees
Graze peacefully like a row of gallows,
And crows with no carrion in sight
Caw to each other of better days.

The congregation may still be at prayer.
Farm folk from fly-specked photos
Standing in rows with their heads bowed
As if listening to your approaching steps.
So slow they are, you must be asking yourself
How come we are here one minute
And in the very next gone for ever?

Try the locked door, then knock once.
The crows will stay out of sight.
High above you, there is the leaning belfry
Still feeling the blow of the last storm.
And then the silence of the afternoon . . .
Even the unbeliever must feel its force.

The Altar

The plastic statue of the Virgin
On top of a bedroom dresser
With a blackened mirror
From a bad-dream grooming salon.

Two pebbles from the grave of a rock star,
A small, grinning wind-up monkey,
A seashell, bronze Egyptian coin,
And a red movie ticket stub.

A splotch of sunlight on the framed
Communion photograph of a boy
With the eyes of someone
Who will drown in a lake that summer.

An altar dignifying the god of chance.
What is beautiful, it cautions,
Is found accidentally and not sought after.
What is beautiful is easily lost.

New Red Sneakers

A lifetime of sleepless nights
Cannot alter the course of events.
Still, when has that ever
Stopped any one of us from trying, my friend?
Or so I told the dog trailing after me.

The fields and orchards were in flower.
The road we were walking
Wound laggardly through their lushness
In no rush to reach a destination.
My heart was a sparrow chirping
On a fresh pile of horse shit.

Happiness on all fronts!
Except for the two crows up ahead
Cooling their heels in anticipation
Of one of us being run over by a car.
It made the poor mutt tear after them
In furious pursuit, accompanied by
A righteous bark, that said it all.

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