Crookback, I sit
at the great bay window

swinging a pig’s bladder
from a stick – a severed head

condemned to lightness.
I’m muddled, addled, a mad egg.

Pick, peck, pick – purple-black,
I count mussel-coloured elytra,

beetle my brain into shards,
listen to nocturnal insect taps,

tick, tick, tap.
Laughter turns to cackle.

Whistle and jibe, whistle and jibe . . .
didn’t want for a kickie-wickie,

bumpy-bed. Halls filter their ghosts,
sudden draughts swirl in corners.

The deaths heap up, fold us in silence.
A caul of time stretches over their lives.

Drove and drive, duck and dive –
light blades her soft pelisse

still hung from its rack, a dusty grey
as though a heron watched me there.

They’ve burned her gingie wigs
I used to mock – she’d beard me for it

and I’d offer to snatch her gingie
in return, for which my ears were boxed.

She would sometimes receive me
in her shift.

Send Letters To:

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

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.

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