III. Bonaly The wind is up on my drive to Bonaly past cherry tree trunk soldiers lining Redford Barracks. Fallen leaves St Vitus’ dance in the gutter. At Colinton, I turn towards the hills and take a narrow, pitted road down bumps and bracken-broken verges. Slower now, a herd of alpacas graze the Pentlands’ sheltered flank – and I thought I was far from home. The purple heather’s spent, sucked to brown, burnt to wizened stalks of ghostly hands, arthritic fingers clinging onto life. I know those hands, the silent vagrant from my kitchen table tails me here. I steal another glance. He’s gone. To calm my nerves, I stop to stroke the larch before it moults for winter; eyelash needles all aflutter, soft and shy. IV. Capelaw Hill Three larks rise from the moor. I cross Dean Burn, scots pine thicket, climb Capelaw Hill. Seated on a gate I look north onto a spill of city. Paternal sky bends to press a sombre hug upon a broken family of villages; they shrug it off. Morningside to Pilton, Duddingston to Gyle, from Grange down to Granton, this family’s not all fine. Mixed fortune smiles on them. Granny in Blackford: gravel drive, pantry, Bengal cat. Jenny in Stockbridge: chalk paint in French grey, hot yoga, cold pressed oil. Darren in Niddrie: tax credit-hungry, hood up, abandoned. All bound by the same three bridges, seven scattered watchful hills, and the ancient Port of Leith. Up the Forth, past Inchkeith, Inchcolm, Inchgarvie Island, ships sail by. V. Willowbrae I’m not alone – my friend, her dog, both here. She speaks of Fifties’ childhood smoke-clogged streets, churn of mist, coughing through a coal fug, disappearing spires, cobbled streets swallowed by the haar as buses slow, workers dis- mount bicycles and push them home to light the fire, thicken the pea-souper. Back then, she lived in Willowbrae; told me she’d waken in the night to Inchkeith’s foghorn calling from the sea, a warning blast to pulse her listless soul. On old year’s night, in keeping with tradition, the horn would blare regardless of the weather while Leith’s ships clanged their klaxons, discordant orchestras through salt air thrumming, humming, teeming into tenements, sloping through sash windows to bugle ears, fill rooms with vents of hope and expectation, tunes to swell the heart with trust for that new year.
Extract from Edinburgh, A Long Poem
by Eimear Bush (September–October 2020)