Stop indulging with Christopher Hitchens’s illness

Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

The news that Christopher Hitchens, the world's most controversial writer and a fanatical atheist, has cancer, is sadly resulting in a ghastly display of indulgence among those debating whether to pray or not to pray for him.

Surely the answer to that clever-clever (or "clever-stupid", as the man himself would say) debate is to pray if you believe, and to do so quietly and without banging on about it, and, er, not to pray if you don't believe. Whatever happened to the notion of shutting up, and "Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing"?

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
Show Hide image

On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

0800 7318496