In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane


David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Sections from ‘Book of the Garden’Raymond Friel
Vol. 21 No. 8 · 15 April 1999

Sections from ‘Book of the Garden’

Raymond Friel

429 words


is thin on the ground,
quickly rotten.
Perhaps it’s the sick summer,
or a sick tree ...

My mind takes the same turns,
overweight, ridiculous in trunks,
arms in the air
down the flume,
on and on
and down.


Now the borders
are pruned back

(the crippled peony
pleading to the blue
October sky)

the lost toys of summer
are found,
the handguns and bats,
a cricket ball
I’m sure looks
almost like something else
as it hangs
above the house
but right now
that doesn’t seem to matter.

Where’s the wisdom in that?


I don’t have the heart
to pull down those weeds
on top of the wall –
like the tar
in an old smoker’s lungs
they probably keep
it together,
too much part
of the parent body
to remove
without damage
to the whole.

Leave them be.


A plastic patio chair
is still under
the apple tree,
printed with wet leaves.
There I sat
in the summer,
those few times,
with a book
I let slip
and a long drink,
gazing off into
the fading day
as if insight
could be stared
out of what-is.


It’s high time
I planted the hyacinth bulbs
I bought in the market
last month.

Since then
they’ve lodged
on the shelf
on the butcher’s block
like a row of thoughts,
tatty and predictable.

In what passes
for an age of confession,
may what I bury
stay hidden,

for form’s sake.


Then again
the tubers
do look
a lot like
old mens’
in a tidy
heap, like
the spoils
of some
battle –
on the field
of God’s victory.


Gloved and gathering up
cuttings I step
laden over the stream
I wish was

     *     *     *


All Saints.

The beatific vision,
as outlined by the schoolmen:
a drive-in
with one person per car,
glued to the white screen
long after the credits.

Giles of Rome
dared to disagree.
Language cannot disappear, he wrote.
To be able to speak
is not a sign
of imperfection
(do you hear that?) ...
Just talking
to the beloved,
said Giles,
affords great pleasure.


All Souls.

The bin bag in the yard
beneath the yellow light
of the kitchen,
its guts spilled
by animals in the night,
will today rest
in Abraham’s bosom.


In back gardens
rockets go hissing up
out of the ground
to a few hundred feet
then explode into willows
of white sparks.

In the park
the crack and roar
of the council bonfire
a screaming pope.

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