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. has a recording of McKendrick reading the poem.]


The fly by night.
The fly in the ointment.
The fly in amber.
The fly on the wall.
The fly on the wall
in Hans Memling’s Portrait of a Carthusian
often considered as a momento mori
though it could be a demonic distraction from prayer.
Or a model of seraphic stillness.
Holub’s fly at the Battle of Crécy.
The five kinds of fly I counted today
on a single umbrel of the yarrow
including a greenbottle,
with crimson headlights and cupreous bodywork,
avidly hoovering pollen
through a black trumpet thicker than its legs.
The black-and-white human fly by Luc Tuymans
undergoing a sinister metamorphosis.
The fly in the film The Fly.
The fly in the remake of The Fly.
The fly on the frieze in the mercato di lana at Pompeii.
The fly that bit the flying horse that caused the fall
of Bellerephon into a thorn bush.
The fly without teeth
but a copious supply of saliva.
The fly in the coal-shed that Mahon
set beside the Winged Victory of Samothrace,
so braced aginst each other it’s hard to know
which of them he thought up first.
The flies of Machado, Blake and Dickinson.
But that’s enough fly poems
though there also ‘the marble fly’: Mandelstam’s nickname.
They fly’s stealthy oviposter
that prises open a dead linnet’s beak
under the patient eye of Jean Henri Fabre.
Una mosca muerta: used of someone not especially attractive.
The fly on the pedestal not yet constructed
in the plaza major of the city of flies.
Beelzebub, the lord of the flies.
The fly within, the inner fly.
The fly that flew from the list of flies.
The fly that stops its din when you switch the light off
but starts again at dawn, and needs to check
whether you’re still among the quick or dead.
The fly whisk; the fly swatter; fly spray;
The Fully Guaranteed Electric Fly Killer
– escalations in the war against the fly.
The fly that survived.

[Read in Out There, published by Faber & Faber.]

When Franco had Aranguren
the professor of Ethics
in Madrid
for his involvement in student politics

Barcelona’s Professor of Aesthetics
the poet Valverde
resigned with a note that read
nulla aesthetica sine ethica

– gesture and word so wed
that they twisted an Either/Or
into a well-knotted

and fastened a rope bridge across a chasm

[Read in Out There, published by Faber & Faber.]