In the latest issue:

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

The Inequality Engine

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

A Room at the Grand Hotel des Roches Noires, 1971

Madame likes to air the double she takes for eight weeks
on the sea-facing east wing.

She has written twelve postcards to Brussels in a month.

Her tone – La mer est jolie – is light and blasé though
she counts six instances of the word
                                                         ténèbres.

Arthritis has touched her best hand. Outside the sea
glances her way with distance

where once everything in the world was a man
asking her to dance.

On one shelf in ribbons, her empty hatbox deepens

into deeper hatboxes that collapse slowly
                                             into the green pinochle halls
                                             of the pinochle men she knew.

Madame dreams in the window chair

and sees her postcards
from the Roches Noires
fly lightly down

                                             over the swathe of sea
                                             from the undercarriage
                                             of an albatross.

The ocean bird migrating     but so everything seems
at this point

                                             the cad with a tall white grin
                                             throwing double sixes at midnight
                                             fresh oysters with their slight cologne
                                             in the backseats of young France

The concierge is calling her
Madame. Madame?

An old albatross the scuffed white of lobby magazines.

An old albatross, but content as she wanders off the edge
of the continent.

A Room in Paris, 1855

An alchemist’s gas lamp
reaches shakily into one corner,
some paintings nobody
has a particular opinion on
are nailed over
rose ballroom wallpaper.

And on the long bed
the middle-aged poet,
Gérard de Nerval.

He would appear restful
if it wasn’t for his eyebrows
meeting
like two dark horses
in the middle of his forehead.
He is dreaming
of the beautiful apple
he palmed only a few days before
on Ile Saint-Louis
and the grief of a wormhole
in the thing perfected.

He wakes all of a sudden.
He takes his collection
Les Chimères
down from its cramped shelf
and cuts it in half at the spine
with a knife.
He will clean
every sentence.

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