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The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

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

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

Close
Close

I was delighted to be taken out and shot.
It made my day.

The following week I was savagely attacked
by a gang of what would have been
ruffians, but for my welcoming courtesies.
They beat me up and left politely. I was charmed.
On Friday I was exquisitely arrested,
divinely humiliated at my place of work,
forced to acknowledge the theft of a period of time
in numerous small increments of minutes,
seconds even, and all the pretty secretaries wept
and my discomfiture thrilled to the raps
of the judge’s hammer.

What a sentence that was! They broke
me down and re-assembled me. Ah!
There was still enough me left to enjoy it!
On my release, there were delicately malicious
blackmailers, parole officers, checkers-up.
To comply with their vicious exhortations
I became a prostitute (male), serial killer, and father of four.
I was an impeccable citizen, a model of gratuitous evil.
They made me Rotary Swine of the Year.
As a social non-misfit, I made an ambiguous sight.
But crowds gathered when
it was discovered I’d fallen down on the job
so completely the job had fallen down with me
and I lay as if at the bottom of a well
smiling up through the wreckage
at the descending brickbats.

Two men in white coats hauled me up
announcing my secret terror
of committing laudable acts
had rendered me terminally unusable for
the illustration of moral choice.
As the great doors of the asylum
clanged shut, I walked out
into bright, corruptible sunshine.

Now I walk a pollen-scented road,
pulling the sky’s body down on my chest,
thrusting my hips at every soft tree,
ravishing weeds with words,
seducing bees and humping flowers,
getting deep into the earth’s warm bed,
unrestrained, in fact, you want
this all to stop?

Well, give me something
other than these words.

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