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

From LossDavid Harsent
Close
Close

XIX

This room now: papers and books: a long drift over tables
over chairs to the floor. She said: ‘You’ll find him here
up to his arse in the tar-pits of poetry: find him lost
in some landscape of the mind: the mind’s perfect drear
salt-marsh-as-moonscape-as-snowscape-as-white-over-white
which is limitless from skyline to skyline.’ She said: ‘There
are ghosts here that crowd and jostle: they feed off silences
and wait for nightfall.’ And: ‘I will turn cards to find
what’s left for him: what’s left for me.’ Sometimes
he lies down with these rejects. His finger-bones ache
he imagines them blacked by a lifelong seepage of ink.
Among the crosshatch of deletions one line untouched:
She said: ‘This comes not from the scar but from the wound.’
With that a shift in her womb: the unnamed child.

         She is the girl waiting
         at the crossroads about
         the dead hour of the night
         in the face of fiers magyk
         and whispers from the gibbet
         ready to haul you down
         and hold you fast no matter
         what ugliness you come to.
         She is your lost bride
         and the heart’s failsafe.
         Full moon in midwinter stillness
         is death in abeyance
         as blood slows and you
         are held in that pale light
         frost-fall and a caught breath.
         There is no true healing
         not at the well of sorrows
         not at the whipping-post not
         at the communion rail –
         Christ’s firebreak: not in
         the hall of mirrors where
         you are set to rights
         not in the basement bar
         where you sit down
         to a whisky-chain
         and fall and rise and fall
         back into a raw dawn light
         over high-rise slumland
         whose people each new day
         go blind to daybreak:
         numb to the toxic wind.
         You know too well
         their turf-war battle songs
         their live-by/die-by graffiti
         you know their stopless need.
         Somewhere far from this
         a cloudburst hits
         the clitterfield. A hawk
         rides the thunderhead.
         It is sure evidence of grace
         that stones glow
         in a tarnished light
         that the sound of the sea
         pushes back against
         the sound of the rain
         that she can bring you here
         with a gesture that sets
         you and stones and bird
         in the churn of the weather
         and the arc of the sublime.

                  Prayers are raised against havoc and harm.
                  Tyranny goes by another name.
                  Word is sent from the sightless to the dumb.
                  The storm-horse gallops through the fire-storm.

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