The Long Haul
The way I’m going these Spanish boots,
waiting for their owner to catch up,
may well outlast me—last is what they’ll do,
with their straps and buckles and rubber soles
cut out of lorry tyres that still preserve
a slight curvature from the many roads they once
lugged their freight along, curled up
against the earth’s circumference.
The heels a wee bit shauchled but the treads still sharp,
ten years of wear have barely worn them down—
years their wearer’s borne with less élan.
The way I’m going these soles have gone before
bearing a far more heavy load
from Al-Ándalus to the Ampurdán,
where a cobbler stitched them to the leather uppers,
though someone since has filled them up with lead.
That splintered bones can mend might give us hope
time’s arrow doesn’t always have to rush
thoughtlessly forward but can choose to stop
mid-air, mid-flight, look round about then step
aside or even back, hold up the cortege
that’s winding through the suburbs in the wake
of the redhead who wears an inappropriate
short black dress and swings a swagger stick
out of time with the angelic oboes
whose scattered notes make buried bones so light.
Jamie McKendrick was born in Liverpool in 1955. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including The Marble Fly (1997), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and a Poetry Book Society Choice; Ink Stone (2003), shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Crocodiles & Obelisks, shortlisted for the Forward Prize. Out There (2012) won the Hawthornden Prize. An earlier selection of his poems was published as Sky Nails (2000), and he is editor of 20th-Century Italian Poems (2004). The Embrace, his translations of Valerio Magrelli’s poetry, won the Oxford-Weidenfeld and the John Florio prizes.