In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The House of York

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

How to set up an ICU

Lana Spawls

Two PoemsFiona Benson
Close
Close

Lares

I keep going back to that bird, snagged
by a halter or skein of fibre or yarn
and strung from the gutter of the opposite house
where it quartered the wind, each bead of its spine
and the dead-drop of its skull
lit up against the breeze-block wall,
claws pushed out as if skidding to a halt
while its beak transmitted code.

I say a prayer to you, small ghost,
small noosed spirit of the eaves,
dangling from the prow of the house
singing all four winds, the spindle and pin
and needle and thorn of your hollow bones
riding you on air that is redolent with spores
after the fact of your scavenged heart,
the stolen tissues of your wings.

First Wife

After the wake you came home. Nothing had changed.
Her trowel stood staked in the rhubarb, squamous with rust,
her boots still flopped where she’d levered them off.
You’d glimpse her face hung over the seed trays
like a moon in their heaven, spurring them on,
and the bulbs she’d buried pushed up that spring
like they had an appointment with God, all the old battlefields
landmined and mapped, crocus swathes on the lawn,
four shilling bunches of jonquils, plum blossom
under your bedroom window, peach in her orchard
stomping ground. Each soft detonation
has its own spindrift of petals and loss,
buds invoking her crab-apple sauce,
scilla primed with the indigo blue of her eyes
of course, of course . . .
           . . . It’ll come back to haunt you,
this other woman kneeling in the grass,
her white blouse glowing like a barn owl at dusk,
sowing seed where your first wife left off. You’d reach out
and touch the streak of dirt she’s rubbed across her face
if only you could shake the sense you’re being watched.
This August you’ll twist each tomato off its stem
like a small grenade and weigh it in your palm.
You’ll scrape the last of the honey out of its jar
then suck on the spoon as you watch the vacant bird table
dumb-posted on the lawn and your new wife
ties raspberry canes and spreads manure, alone.
Nothing will have changed, except your heart,
the pit you swell round, its hurt, its hurt.

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