Saturday Night

Out of the impenetrable wood

Elizabeth Bishop

And young girls shall gather
to dance on the highways
under petals of light
that float from their shoulders
and dip into lotioned shadows.
They shall coil their salty hair
and tug at their lapsed muslins
as they fall like cushions, and spill.
Do they dance for those creatures
whose unmade selves
come unbuttoning out of the dark?
All strop and tang, they crave
whatever will settle their erupted
frames, their chemical blunders,
their overgrown sentences.
You who pass by can watch
but not enter the world of this place.
You know nothing of its way
of growing tree from shadow
so that all is fixed and root.
You who pass by, pass by.


Why did I choose not to understand
that what lay ahead on the darkening road,
barely motorised and dripping pitch,
was just a machine that would slow me down
and that the words ‘White Line Removal’
were a practical warning, not a sign?
And that the hundred miles to your door
were distance and not a journey towards
the unmarked freedom we hope for out of
action and pain? And that this was no
unmaking of a road but the slow motorised
drip of the dark sealing the dark?

Essex Kiss

A handbrake turn on a hairpin bend.
Merry-go-round? No, the waltzer.
A touch as bold as rum and peppermint.
Chewing gum and whelks, a whiff
of diesel, crocus, cuckoo spit.
The moves of a half-broken pony.
A poacher’s tickle and snare.
I will lay you down
on a bed of nettles and blackthorn.
Your body will give way like grain,
your body will veer:
smoke over a torched field
as the wind takes and turns it.
The grip of bluebells.
The grip of wattle and daub.
As near as twelve lay-bys,
as far as a Friday night lock-in.
By this are we bound.
No paperwork.

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