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Kitchener’s Bane

Jamie McKendrick, 1 April 1983

... Be sand not oil in the world’s machine’ recommended Günter Eich. I admire Luddites, objectors, all who sabotage the cogs and gears of a lying culture. Long exile from the hall of thane or hetman leaves the bardlings’ sweet-tooth unappeased, tuning the vocal chords to croon and charm the world in coca-cola harmony. But who’s this under the silken billboards furtive, prosecutable and rash? – damned flyposter, telltail brush and pail of glue rucking the folds of an old mackintosh ...


Jamie McKendrick, 21 April 2016

... Milton lost his sight in libertyes defence and I my hearing in oyles pursuit employed by factors who failed to plug our ears with down I was the fuse-and-dynamite boy who blew up bits of Derbyshire with blasts that lunged through the earth’s crust barrelling out below to stun the blind mole in its burrow and bend the funicles of beetles antennae ...


Jamie McKendrick, 10 June 1993

... If what you hear is like a field and the height of a lark above it then the field has dwindled and the wind bells on the razor wire around the verge beyond which nothing but the pointless din of outer space gets through to you. Acoustic junk. The earth itself begins to hum with the infinitesimal tunnelling of umpteen holts and vaults and brood halls and the sky each dawn is lower than the day before as through wound down like a press-head on a worm-screw where once you woke and heard the threads of birdsong trailed from hedge to hedge as clear and intricately round as a palm-bark epic in Telugu ...


Jamie McKendrick, 6 August 2009

... Out in the vacant lot to gather weeds I found these teazles – their ovoid heads delicately armoured with crowns of thorns. Arthur, from whom I haven’t heard a word in thirty years, who must be ninety if he’s a day, told me they were used to raise the nap on the green felt of billiards tables and, since Roman times, for combing woollen stuff. He also said their seeds were caviar to the goldfinch ...

The Hunters

Jamie McKendrick, 5 February 2015

... We that have been hunting all the day are mighty tired, our hair is dank with sweat and by our hunting helmets plastered flat. As days of hunting go, this must be counted a good day: the horns blew loud and the dogs barked hard as though they knew it was more for them than us we went out hunting the wild beast all day – so they could teach him just how tame they were, and how wrong to think that being dogs had taken the edge off their appetite for sport ...


Jamie McKendrick, 22 July 2010

... Toledo la rica, Salamanca la fuerte, León la bella, Oviedo la sacra, y Sevilla la grande. Liverpool the impoverished, the liverish, the void, the full, the self-besotted, the blarney-argoted, the blitzed and blackened, the bella-brutta, the rag-rich, the moss-stained sandstoned, the green-lung’d, the ricket-ridden, the loud and adenoidal. Liverpool the last-to-be-served, the least-accounted, the over-arched and undermined, the mother-tongued and plurilingual, the Catholic-Protestant, the cap-in-hand, the hand- to-mouth, the pub-encrusted and the hovel-haunted ...


Jamie McKendrick, 10 December 1998

... The grey-green snake of the Grand Canal heels itself behind a fleet of hulls and white marble writes white marble on the face of the water under the façades in a fat oily squiggle straight from the tube. When the tyre-clad flank of the vaporetto thuds against the belly of the dock, we pilgrims watch how in her sky-blue suit the blonde conductress throws an eight around the two Arsenal-forged cast-iron bollards and brings the boat’s stern first and then its prow into a tame adjacency ...

Two Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 9 May 2019

... Court of the Lions After fifty years to revisit the Alhambra and witness the same water spewing from the lion’s maw: I remember wearing a silver short-sleeved shirt adorned with dragons, and for the first time, on the airport runway, hearing the night alive with the cicadas’ tiny anvils. This time, the metal plate screwed to my femur vibrates to their call, my heart to the murmur of marble, the patter of water ...

The Lion Tree

Jamie McKendrick, 23 January 2020

... Alexander Cornelius mentions a tree called the lion-tree, the timber of which he says was used to build the Argo . . . which cannot be rotted by water or destroyed by fire . . . This tree is, so far as I am aware, unknown to anyone else.Pliny the ElderMay well be extinct, and our one authorityis terse, but that surely speaks in his favour.No wonder its timber was used on the Argo– the ship that rent old Neptune’s slumber –for in contact with seawater it neither rottednor buckled ...


Jamie McKendrick, 2 December 1982

... She lay mute as an Old Testament sacrifice; nothing so abundant as a thicket – but barbed wire, a secular parallel, the sheep had snagged her horn on, days before judging by the jaundiced eyes and tantrum of panic, perfunctorily abandoned when we came by. She must have tried grazing the wrong side, where the promised pastures grow, and ended up like this – involved in a fatally elegant metal-puzzle ...

The Resort

Jamie McKendrick, 2 November 2006

... Red-eyed and flinching, Flavius was applying a depilatory paste of ivy gum and crushed centipede to little effect. The sudden silence meant they were waiting for that smooth-cheeked decemvir to swivel his thumb over in the arena. Brats of empire – they’d think the world revolved around them if they thought the world revolved which of course it doesn’t ...

Two Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 22 February 2018

... The Flight Others look down on me. As well they might. I look down on myself from a great height: see the tramp’s straggly hair turned white – the off-white of effluent-polluted sea-foam – the bony shoulders, the incipient bald dome and black wings sprouting that will fly me home. Cartoline for Rachel Owen 1. I keep forgetting if this is Lucerne or Geneva, Geneva or Lucerne ...


Jamie McKendrick, 18 March 1999

... I spent all morning in the cafe talking to a man who’d just survived a car crash. They’d cut him out of the wreck, his legs crushed – and still not cured – his chest a map of some forsaken country no one could live in, as seen from the air, which was where he was then, or felt himself to be – looking down on his own body picked out in a ring of light though at first at least there was no actual light there, only a dark road ...

The One-Star

Jamie McKendrick, 8 June 1995

... Moving away in the taxi, I could just see myself     climbing the marble steps and stepping through     the plate-glass into a lounge-cum-vestibule, its floor inlaid with a pink star of mineral grains     and roughage – a breakfast for the after-life.     Beaded oak cladding, electrified oil-lamps, a pharaonic desk-clerk. The air was cut and dried     as though reconstituted in the basement’s lungs     and laid out, and folded, in cool parched reams ...

Three Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 17 February 2005

... Postcard Ciao bella! we’re near this stretch of Emerald Coast, but the sea view’s even better: soon as we landed S whisked us off on his motoscafo Magnum for an eyeful. I see how he got his nickname – small as a jockey, all male, gallantries galore. & fun! Stress-free zone, except for a 3-way phone conf with the Prez – cause for concern being the shrine at Najaf ...

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