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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

Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

Two PoemsMoniza Alvi
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Pilgrimage

On that dreamy late afternoon
the bushes alive with cabbage whites
Tom led me down the tangled pathway
between the mysteries of back gardens
and the top of the railway bank
where we were not supposed to play.

At last he pointed out a clearing
a sandy dip in the bank
and there it lay
a long fat turd.
It was Neil, Tom said.
Neil did it.
Other children had arrived
so we all gathered round
in a wide circle to study it
and it seemed to stare at us
burnished rich brown
almost kingly
as if the sun enjoyed it too –
an offering from a pale quiet boy.
Not one of us was disappointed.

Someone tried to burn it.
One by one we clambered up the bank
and trekked along the pathway.
Then later, at the tea-table
I thought of what Neil had left
in the vanishing sunlight.

I would like to be a dot in a painting by Miro

I would like to be a dot in a painting by Miro.

Barely distinguishable from other dots,
it’s true, but quite uniquely placed.
And from my dark centre

I’d survey the beauty of the linescape
and wonder – would it be worthwhile
to roll myself towards the lemon stripe,

Centrally poised, and push my curves
against its edge, to get myself
a little extra attention?

But it’s fine where I am.
I’ll never make out what’s going on
around me, and that’s the joy of it.

The fact that I’m not a perfect circle
makes me more interesting in this world.
People will stare forever –

Even the most unemotional get excited.
So here I am, on the edge of animation,
a dream, a dance, a fantastic construction,

A child’s adventure.
And nothing in this tawny sky
can get too close, or move too far away.

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