In the latest issue:

The World Goes Bust

Adam Tooze

A nice girl like Simone

Joanna Biggs

The Arrestables

Jeremy Harding

Short Cuts: Built from Light

Daniel Soar

‘Cleanness’

Edmund Gordon

The Ghent Altarpiece

Julian Bell

You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell

At the Royal Academy: Léon Spilliaert

John-Paul Stonard

Conrad Jumps Ship

Fredric Jameson

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

Poem: ‘Mayfly’

Fiona Benson

Follow the Science

James Butler

Diary: #coronasomnia

Wang Xiuying

The Archaeology of ChildhoodJohn Burnside
Close
Close
Vol. 24 No. 10 · 23 May 2002
Poem

The Archaeology of Childhood

John Burnside

238 words

for Will Maclean

I House

If the house in a dream
is how I imagine myself:

room after room
of furniture no one could use;

stairs leading upwards
to nothing; an empty hall

filling with snow
where a door has been left ajar;

then whatever I make
of the one room high in the roof

where something alive and frantic
is hopelessly trapped,

whatever I make
of the sweetness it leaves behind

on waking, what I know
and cannot tell

is awkward and dark in my hands
while I stop to remember

the snare of a heart;
the approximate weight of possession.

II Snow

I was always expecting to meet
an animal, out in the snow
by Fulford Pond,

one of the mammals I knew
from nature books,
some vivid creature

from the distant North:
the Arctic fox;
a sudden wolverine.

In stories, the animals talk.
Their faces are maps;
they come to us with gifts

or riddles
in the still of afternoon
when snow begins to fall – a covenant

too subtle
for the gods
we answer to.

I used to think
the animals themselves
were secret gods,

come from the very quick
of a blizzard
to find me out

or making it holy again
when I crossed a field
and the footprints I left behind

kept swimming away,
resolving, among the tracks
of mink and geese,

while the lull
I mistook for a self
decayed into silence.

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