In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

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

Arthur Rimbaud at Scamblesby, 1873John Burnside
Close
Close
Vol. 39 No. 1 · 5 January 2017
Poem

Arthur Rimbaud at Scamblesby, 1873

John Burnside

343 words

There is no evidence that Rimbaud ever visited Scarborough.
Graham Robb

At times, it feels like someone else’s dream,
copious rain, when it comes, and the sense
of Paraclete in every tongue of flame
and hymnsong in the sky above the fen;

and nightfall, in the gaps between the hills,
is quick and unrelenting, like the mouth
that glides out from the ditch, no voice to tell
what symmetry it brings.

A new guest, he understands nothing:
the language; the parcelled food; the hands of the women;
the girl who serves breakfast, that coldwater light in her eyes
a death-threat, or an effort at flirtation.

The sheep watch him pass, like churchgoers watching the priest
as he mutters the corpus meum into his sleeve,
not quite convinced, but just for a moment, stirred
by a sense of occasion.

At noon, he walks away to where the gods
that used to rule this land still haunt the roads:
Wotan, with a jug of cider
sunk in the ample pocket of his coat,

a drunk, like any other,
but for the fret of light in his eye
and the longing he cannot conceal
for some kind of mother;

or Freyja, walking home
at evening, in her kestrel-feather gown,
a basket on her arm, of leeks and plums,
a summer-long

delirium, implicit in the bloom
of damsons, or that blatant stain
of mulberry,
like goose blood on her chin.

One night he finds he is lost
on a moonlit lane
that seems to run forever through a land
that looks like the land

he came from, empty and grey
and one spire much like another;
and all he can do is follow, the path leading down
and away, through a huddle of thorns,

to a windless sky,
far from the church gate,
forgotten in folk song and fable,
where nothing seems once and for all but the proximate gold

of the final extinction:
a slow burn of gristle and bone, like the slaughterhouse fire,
that once, on the road to perdition,
he traded for home.

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