In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali

GOD HATES YOUR FEELINGS

James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

Close
Close

You were still only a child,
I, 19, the age of your eldest boy now.
It was the evening of the Marijuana Caper
your eyes first met mine at the China Chalet.
I believe it would have been spring,
early, but days clearly lengthening,
a patch of ice maybe here or there,
pussy willow catkins …
We nearly bought it twice that evening,
my father swerving left and right,
Mother, beside him, silent, stiff with fright.
He was mad at something.
Mad, of course at life, but mad:
only very occasionally, and on this occasion.
They’d dose a man like that these days,
or try. He’d never have stood for it,
nor any of us, who knew the storm he sailed in
and trembled to be on board with him, but still …
Your hair was black, or nearly so,
and long for a child’s, part way down your back.
Your eyes dark, as well, roving, restless,
then, as now, taking in the busy room,
as you fitfully dug through your pile of lo mein.
We hadn’t planned to get him stoned.
Improvisation was a habit in that household.
He insisted we put it in his pipe,
to prove that he was right, getting high
was humbug, a notion fools entertain.
Mother hid in the kitchen, out of sight.
It was a long-ish drive for us of a Sunday,
but not so long as it ordinarily might have been.
His frenzy, that’s what would have caught your eye,
the way he went after it, like a dog at a carcass,
scowling over his left shoulder, then his right,
dare a stranger approach to share or take away
the wonton crisps or dumplings, beef
with scallions, shredded pork, whatever floated by –
New Jersey Chinese fare of the day.
It would have thrilled, or frightened, a child
to behold an adult at table quite so wild.
40 years ago, 40 years …
You don’t remember all that, do you?
How could you? I’m making it up,
the two of us both there at the same time.
It might easily have been true.
If I made it up it’s because it pleases me to.
As you please me, poking through your lo mein,
raising your head nervously to take in the room,
me, and what’s doing with the rain.

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