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

RevelationRuth Padel
Close
Close

‘A ladder’, the master whispered, ‘of nucleic acid.’
This was the first we’d heard of it.
Rain nosed the glass; wind lashed the trees
outside. ‘Four hydrogen-bonded nucleotides
locking on like mating damselflies, but each
a different size, pulling the ladder’s sides
into a twist, like serpents on the sign
outside a chemist who for old time’s sake
gives lodging in his window to the alchemist’s
glass jars.’ He drew those twin snakes
looping up the wand
of God-Who-Escorts-Our-Morphia-Laden-Dead
to forest mist and shadowlands
where they belong, and brings them back
in dreams. ‘But one snake, the lagging strand,
is upside down.’ A squeak of chalk.
The pavilion, as I recall, was dark.
Rain pooled on the mesua floor.
‘We’re conflict from the start. One thread
runs easy. The other is fitful tickertape
on which genetic script, your soul’s barcode,
emerges opposite.’ What did we know?
We longed for a match, a cell phone, anything
that glowed. ‘As in a mirror, messages
are written here and must be read
backwards.’ We waited for the prayer
that never came. ‘Otherwise is built in.
Behold your molecule of heredity.
Two cosmic serpents, yes; but tail to head.’

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