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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

As avidity circulated about the soccer game
A bear lingered, nosing among the spruces,
Under damp boughs, sampling scents, perching
Briefly on a stump, while remaining curious,
Until, on impulse, it stepped out on its hind legs,
Causing the playing field to empty in a hurry,
As in a monster film from the 1950s, a fog
Of silence filtered in or should I say descended –
Not far from the sculpture park and gardens
Closing their gates, the globes twinkling out,
An attendant with a flashlight swinging his
Keys, almost like someone from Victorian London
Or gas-lit New York, seemingly taciturn, a man
(now a Midwesterner wearing thick glasses)
Who’d be heading home to sit with pleasure
Beside his fire pit, sip his cider, puff cheroots,
In the small meadow of his yard, fringed
By ash and elm, few lights of neighbours

I woke that morning, he told me, recollecting
A quayside in Nova Scotia, where I mused
Into the mud at low tide, grubby after camping,
Because I no longer had a home or wife, short
Of finances. Such time can weigh on a person.
He and the bear met at his car – a small bear –
And though Rupert dropped his keys, blew
His whistle, it wasn’t through apprehension,
He made plain. Perhaps the creature could find
Its path north – he certainly hoped so. But on
An adjacent highway zipping past dogwood,
Pointing east from the park and gardens, the arch,
The school and sirens, the glow of the city pasted
Above a fen and long abandoned farmstead,
The bear met its conclusion on the bumper
Of a produce truck. Rupert said, I wish
I could have taken it home and fed the bugger

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