The scouring of foreskins accomplished, all smegma flushed out of its lair
Gear tightly stowed, hair washed, face shaved and briskly slapped
With Noir for Men – a girl need fear nothing but fear itself.

Not that these girls are scared. They give a jaunty fingers back to men.
Choosing drinks they say Make mine a stiff one and laugh.
Lovely, thrilling, provocative stuff. These chicks won’t be chicken ... eh?

Yet far from slags. They’re not crippled – hopeful and giving still.
No bitterness lurks in their young breasts adorned with such taste
(Like the mums in a serial ad – a pair but not shoved in your face).

The four enter a bar like exotic birds briefly alighting on country streams.
Which table’s the problem. To see and be seen yet repel the dull crowd.
They pile coats and bags on all sides. Cold stares complete the defence.

Warm for each other though. Guys catch the eyes of the girls (their friend’s girl)
In glances that burn as the rounds arrive and the anecdotes flow
Interrupting, interpolating, exaggerating, playing for laughs.

But serious too. The young men are writers. Correction! They ‘write a bit’.
Hence their loudly-voiced outrage, bewilderment, pain and disgust.
The elders they’ve rubbished so often they rubbish with gusto again.

The girls feed them life. In a wondering hush one describes an assault
As a child, by a brother-in-law. In his own living-room, if you please,
Wife in the kitchen cooking, Sooty and Sweep on the box.

Harmony and Great Oneness! A mystical merging of selfhood!
Close, intimate and warm, to drink delight of prattle with your peers!
This is surely the nearest to happiness maimed man can get.

Don’t they know it, lone zeros on bar stools observing with longing
(God help them) imagining they too could sparkle with wit and insouciance
Instead of dispelling all magic with clumsy prosaic insistence.

Such magic, to leave for a pee tears the heart. Though this can swing too.
A girl has to push past a guy, laughing and freely leaning close.
His cool grin is a lie. He has half a brute-on from just brushing her ass.

More drink and faster! An empty glass comically overturned
Inspires, instead of pique, a double round. Wild comic pleading!
Yet everyone drinks it. Then does so again – double ones now the norm.

They stockpile for the end. All too soon they’re the only ones left in the bar
Harassed by two barmen, the landlord, the landlord’s wife. Four wild heads roar
But the girls, at their splendid and sassy best, force them to wait.

Outside to a lurid expressionist sky by Kokoschka or Munch.
No parties – nor do they care. One or other flat will do.
Excitement will come soon. It will. It must. Youth demands it be so.

When faltering humans fail their young the Gods themselves
Take youthful form to set the weary earth aglow.
It will happen soon now. If not tonight tomorrow night for sure.

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