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

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

Today on two legs stood and reached to the right spot as I saw it
choosing among the twisting branches and multifaceted changing shades,
and greens, and shades of greens, lobed, and lashing sun, the fig that seemed to me the
perfect one, the ready one, it is permitted, it is possible, it is

actual. The VR glasses are not needed yet, not for now, no, not for this while
longer. And it is warm in my cupped palm. And my fingers close round but not too
fast. Somewhere wind like a hammerstroke slows down and lengthens
endlessly. Closer-in the bird whose coin-toss on a metal tray never stills to one

face. Something is preparing to begin again. It is not us. Shhh say the spreading sails of
cicadas as the winch of noon takes hold and we are wrapped in day and hoisted
up, all the ribs of time showing through in the growing in the lengthening
harness of sound – some gnats nearby, a fly where the white milk-drop

of the torn stem starts. Dust on the eglantine skin, white powder in the confetti of light
all up the branches, truth, sweetness of blood-scent and hauled-in light, withers of
the wild carnival of tree shaking once as the fruit is removed from its dream. Remain I
think backing away from the trembling into full corrosive sun. Momentary blindness

follows. Correction. There are only moments. They hurt. Correction. Must I put down
here that this is long ago. That the sky has been invisible for years now. That the ash
of our fires has covered the sun. That the fruit is stunted yellow mould when it appears
at all and we have no produce to speak of. No longer exists. All my attention is

free for you to use. I can cast farther and farther out, before the change, a page turned,
we have gone into another story, history floundered or one day the birds dis-
appeared. The imagination tried to go here when we asked it to, from where I hold the
fruit in my right hand, but it would not go. Where is it now. Where is this here where

you and I look up trying to make sense of the normal, turn it to life, more life,
disinterred from desire, heaved up onto the dry shore awaiting the others who could
not join us in the end. For good. I want to walk to the left around this tree I have made
again. I want to sit under it full of secrecy insight immensity vigour bursting complexity

swarm. Oh great forwards and backwards. I never felt my face change into my new
face. Where am I facing now. Is the question of good still stinging the open before us
with its muggy destination pitched into nothingness? Something expands in you
where it wrenches-up its bright policing into view – is this good, is this the good –

under the celebrating crowd, inside the silences it forces hard away all round itself,
where chanting thins, where we win the war again, made thin by bravery and belief,
here’s a polaroid if you want, here’s a souvenir, here now for you to watch, unfold, up
close, the fruit is opening, the ribs will widen now, it is all seed, reddish foam, history.

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