Epithets, by Jamie McKendrick

16 June 2017

Toledo la rica, Salamanca la fuerte, Leon 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 hovel-haunted.

Liverpool the riverine, the ocean-avid, the slaveship-tainted,
sugar-whitening, matchstick-making, slum and dockland
refuge of Lascars, Chinese, Irish, Jews, Somalians.

Liverpool the deserted, the polluted, the de bon aire,
the clinker-built and shipwrecked, the chameleon,
the edge-of-everywhere-and-nowhere’s-centre.

//

That final line could serve not just as an epithet for Liverpool, but as an epigram for Jan Morris’ Trieste and the Meaning of Nowherea longer meditation on somewhereness and nowhereness.

[Read in Selected Poems, published by Faber & Faber. poetryarchive.org has a recording of McKendrick reading the poem.]

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