Bonaly, Capelaw Hill, Willowbrae

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.

4 thoughts on “Bonaly, Capelaw Hill, Willowbrae

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