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Eliot Weinberger

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Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

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Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

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Insomnia

Everywhere it’s raining except here
where the mosquitoes thrive
and the car alarms wail at each other
all through the dog-moaning night,
and just before dawn that smell
of onions frying brings the image
of a fat ghost chef whose insomnia
is dealt with like this, making me
rush to the kitchen to catch him
but he and the smell are always gone.
And sleep has no chance at all then,
so rather than ride the toss-&-turning
horse I go naked onto the balcony
to count the lights left on in the flats,
trying to imagine who is up early
and who is late to bed, and soon
the night train will arrive from the north
to rest and be fed, the woken crows
will start the feral cats, and I will add
my wolf howl, then wait for the shouts.

Inheritance

Standing on the hilltop,
he could see the island –
could make out clearly
the old family cottage
not that he’d ever slept
or boiled a kettle in it
but he’d heard stories,
seen one yellow photograph,
and now it was his. A roof
of sorts was there but no
front wall, and the gable
on the sea side was air.
At least a road passed it,
potholed, no doubt,
but bumpable over,
and the pier looked intact.
He’d have local masons
out there before the week
was over, then builders,
roofers, carpenters.
He’d buy himself a boat.
He’d dig out records
of life on the island,
ended fifty years before.
He’d have a helicopter
airlift a generator,
then a cooker, a fridge,
a freezer, and wine,
cases of it, with the food
to go with it, though fish
might be caught, and rabbits
must thrive there. In time
he’d try a herb garden …
But now it was the hotel
and dinner – roast lamb,
he’d noticed. And after,
a cognac with the manager
who’d known his father.

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