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

Two PoemsNick Laird
Close
Close

The Layered

doubt

Empty Laird was called that ‘cause
his Christian name was Matthew
and his middle one was Thomas.

Towards the end he commented
that by his-self he’d made a sixth
of the disciples, and forgone a life

on the quest for the rest.
And a good book.
Or a decent cause.

fear

Laird Jnr was a tyke, a terrier.

A nit-picker who grew to a hair-splitter,
he was not so much scared of his shadow,
as of its absence. He knew he was see-thru.

It was a very modern kind of terror.

lust

the one who went on to become Mrs Laird
the wife walked into my life
one night I’d had six or seven pints

and it was either that or fight

and she was just the type I like
chest spilling out of itself slender hipped
with a Nubian face closed to the public
waist my exact hand-span

poised and filmic she was drinking my usual
unthinkable and very
very do-able I am not a good man
into my grave into my grave into my grave she was laid

The Gritter

It could almost be harvesting ice,
what with that chaff, this sluice of lost fillings,
pellets from air-guns, breadcrumbs and grape pips,
these infinite clippings of night.
They scatter. They generate weather.
And flesh the road from bone to wound. Open.

The gritter makes unhurried circular journeys
like the drunk in a child’s anorak,
who nightly would slope his resolute ghost
out through the pub and then once into dawn,
found dead, face down, detaining the herd
on their way to be milked at some farm.

They stand patiently round him like mourners
then veer off in groups. Their breath clears like smoke.
This might be the end of an all-night party:
potholes like punch-bowls, a grass tinselled verge,
thawed drops of birdsong prodding the straggler
to tell him it’s time to get up and go home,

but he won’t sleep this off, won’t wake
surprised and wander back to town alone,
through swift new snow that’s falling now
too heavily to leave the myth
of how those flakes are each distinct,
like fingerprints, like skin, intact.

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