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At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

Two PoemsJohn Ashbery
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Days like Today

Sometimes, on Sundays,
they walk a little ways into the oval
spell others are soft on. She, a maid,
unknown to terror, rising out of the ridge,
its spreading cedars bemused and endearing.
The ancestors have never been influenced by
any kind of logic, not even a shrike’s,
and now I can’t even say what a hornet’s-eye view
of this catastrophe might englobe, if we were all
brothers and near to one another.
She has lovely things, but tainted
by the idea of a wall.

The Ciribiribin Society cancelled its annual
gymkhana, thank heaven for that, and the tool booth,
often described as ‘gritty’, had no choice
but to reel in its feelers. The difference
wasn’t anal, only velour. Such staff as I
command were only too pleased to hand
me over to the local authorities
once the matter had been digested,
i.e. disposed of. That, and the promise
of something wonderful being about to happen
in the tall grass that is never silent,
not completely, was reason enough for a celebration
that never came. We were half-sure
of who we were, but uncertain whether to greet
the fliers who arrived in great exultant waves
flying too close to the horizon and its goads.
It’s more like standing, you said, and I promised
not to break the spell, at least until morning.

Postlude and Prequel

Would I lie to you? I don’t know what to say to you,
and the season is coming into season just now
with long-awaited words from back when we were
friends and still are, of course, but the tides
pursue their course each day. Perturbing elements
listen in the wings, which are coming apart at the seams.
Is it all doggerel and folderol? A cracked knowledge?
Monkey journalism?

This is better than the other overlooked good
that dried up a while back and whispers.
The results, if any, won’t last too much longer
and I meanwhile am on my way to correct you
about the tickets and their availability.
We pitch and stiffen, elbowed by traffic mysteriously
descending the other lane of the avenue
as lamps burst in many-benched Central Park.

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