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

Dear RoomHugo Williams
Close
Close

1

Are you still Chinese yellow?
Are your blinds still drawn
against prying eyes on the tops of buses?
How well I remember you,
perched beside a traffic-light
on the corner of Ladbroke Grove,
our tree-house lookout post,
shuddering and shaking all night
to the jamming of gears,
the headlights of cars
kerb-crawling the platform where we slept.
You held us suspended
halfway between heaven and earth that year.
We climbed up into the fork
of our lookout tree
and kicked the ladder away.

2

You were always more part of the street
than part of the house,
which only seemed to exist
as a doorway, a darkened hall,
an excited flight of stairs.
You were a half-floor,
tacked to the side of the building
as an afterthought, an extension of the landing
suspended in midair.
We tried not to walk too heavily.

Room, you taught us to live dangerously,
striped light coming through the blinds
and falling on the bed
where we lay too close to the edge.
Love in that half-world
was a seabird’s egg, tapered and weighted
to roll only in that circle
which the ledge allowed was tenable.
If one of us lost balance
we would tumble into the street.

3

I’ve heard she keeps you on
as a studio, somewhere to escape to
from new-found domesticity.
Once or twice a week – or is it less? –
she’ll drop by to water the plants, sulk,
or do a little work
sorting through her old stuff for jumble sale.
I think of her, getting ready to go out,
meeting my gaze in the long mirror,
eyes already sheeted for departure.

Room, you must be wondering
what she is planning to do with you
now that everything is stripped bare, made good,
painted matt magnolia.
I’ve been wondering the same thing myself.
As she picks up an old blue dress
and holds it against herself for a moment,
I almost imagine her
staring at me across London,
daring me to blink.

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