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

The Inequality Engine

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

Lhasa, 1950Mark Abley
Close
Close
Vol. 4 No. 9 · 20 May 1982
Poem

Lhasa, 1950

Mark Abley

203 words

1

You had a month to play with kites,
a season to play with water
and a night when statues of butter
stood frozen on a passing street.

You had a government that banned
football and mah jongh
and a people who’d obey.

You had a market where the rich
and their retinue could buy
the fresh forbidden meat,
Bing Crosby’s latest disc,
silk scarves to give away.

2

Only 12,000 feet in the air,
nomads found the summer heat
too intense to bear.

If they turned from their slow advance
out of the forbidden city,
the golden roofs of a palace
disturbed the passing sky.

They would rescue
a fly who sank into their tea
in case he was your grandmother, reborn.

She was lately fed to the crows.
The butter lit her soul.

3

You had a shrine where mice of honour
could pass along a silken curtain
and flounce across the floor
to gorge on flour and butter.

You had a god who longed to know
politics, arithmetic, theology
and the function of machines.

You had a land in the age of darkness
unused to suicide or traffic
and its prayer-wheels turned like the sun,
faithful revolutions
yet the mountains were unmoved.

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