Bad Dreams

As I ease the blade from my father’s chest
he looks surprised – as though opening the curtains

to snow. Remember the Emperor who beheaded
a soldier for dreaming of the Emperor

beheaded. After lunch, my father naps, non-fiction
slipping from his fingers. When he wakes he blinks

the room to order. He likes to tell my tiny son
the story of my birth, an ambulance

in snow chains, the city bleached white
as he held a blue thing screaming itself red.

I killed him that day and have just
kept going. He loves the boy relentlessly.

Hand in hand they walk, slow as each other,
laughing at what they’ve got planned.



While today is a day of celebration let us not forget my father, the king, inside whose independently-swivelling ears – supple and peach-furred – I warmed my hands when I was young. And later, when my mother had moved to Ottawa, how he let me reach right in and soothe my pulse with memories of her. And then, during one such private moment, his queen came home early from bouldering and, with their love only in its third month, my hands were burned to nubs in the fire of my father’s lust, leaving me to pull from his mind two smoking stumps, plunge them into the snow on the windowsill where they hissed like the black-headed serpents that border our royal crest. Let us not live in bitterness. Before we fill their plot, take a moment to lower your heads, loyal subjects, as I stand before you in humble forbearance, one hand a plunge saw, the other a spade.

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.

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