Two Poems

Jamie McKendrick

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.

for Rachel Owen


I keep forgetting if this is
Lucerne or Geneva, Geneva or Lucerne.
But there’s a lake almost too close
like a slab of black marble.
Every hour a ferry slides over and erases
its lucid inscriptions.


In Tarragona you can swim a few strides
from the port road – it looks clean enough
to drown in, but it takes a bloody cliff
to reach the Rambla Vella and the Roman ruins.
I opt for a dip in the drink.
Why scale the heights when you can fight the waves?


Free passage to Cagliari, that’s if
I can speak about the First World War
poets. I speak too much. Break of day,
a trench for sewage pipes is being dug
outside the hotel window. Hard hats are
placidly conferring. A Phoenecian frigate in the port.


The interminable cave through the Karst
– the White War fought in the near distance –
is home to the blind salamander and the devil bat.
They say Dante in exile visited and first
dreamed up hell down here – they forget
he spent his youth in Florence.