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


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



This is the deceptive border of the year – its crux –
it has unique qualities. It can be disguised
as a powder, as a precursor to pesticide.

The way to keep track of time is by
the new buds blaring on the branch-ends
acid-green and sleek as silk.

It’s sickening, their slick fecundity,
their furtive spread. Hoist on the gold pins
of their mount, their pearl vitellus glows

as an egg someone lifts to the light
to see the hard rot twist in the radix,
hold it up in their hand carefully

between all four fingers and thumb.
It’s no use worrying about it.
You pull out to come, scatter opals

flecked through with blood. I turn the radio on.
Out in the sea, covertly,
goose barnacles in hiding extrude

their secret tongues to taste the air
and see if it’s time. In the tideline
bubbles cling, whisper sub rosa,

the smaller ones tangential,
timestopped mid-spray by the last of frost.
When I crack an egg into a basin

and the yolk comes carrying a little bouquet
do I whisk it in, or cup it from the albumen
with a fragment of shell? Here at the climax

the redgold sheath of winter is cracking,
shouldered aside by the green shoot,
the nucleic newcomer, and calving –

A-232’s advantage here is that it will not freeze.
Novichok on the news again. Any second
the trees will discharge their spores over the city

and we won’t be able to breathe at all.
They are ghosts, they are rumours and talk,
not confirmed by anything.

The chimes of Big Ben come tinny
down the wires, bringing to hand the time
of day, bulletin, rumour, and something like attar

of damask – Nevarte, new rose, the lab flower
of a slender sable-brush heavy-laden
that heaped pollen onto the ready stamen –

something delicate as a soap bubble
that looked at too directly will collapse.
No, we said in the papers, No, it did not exist.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

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