Royal Terrace, Calton Hill

VI.	Royal Terrace

Some habits punctuate my days, like sunset
walks to Calton Hill with robin, rat and wren.
I’ve met them all, housed happily in hawthorn hedge,
that neat-clipped edge to Royal Terrace
with its high and haughty ‘cannot-help-it’ tinge.

Enough to say, I saw a couple dancing
there beneath a crystal chandelier. A chance
glance through a window, she in velvet dress,
eyes closed, a gently guiding hand: spin, turn,
pull close. Pierced by loneliness,
I yearn for what is lost.

Walk on.

VII.	Calton Hill

Arrive in time to see the sky wrung pink,
sun sinking into Fife, puff-ball cloud
trip into the east upon
a rising bank of gathered thoughts,
a float of chanted prayers, an aimless drift,
a wish, petition made to who knows where.

Of all this city’s haunts,
for me,
peace lingers here.

Couples draped on monuments,
smiles and tilted heads for photographs,
eyes trained on far horizons, dreams of
better times to come. Ukuleles, rosé wine,
and blankets on the ground. Dogs on leads
and boys on bikes and tourists holding maps,
pointing cameras for snaps.

And Dugald Stewart, what would he make
were he to rise
to see those two young men embrace
at that secluded space?

He’s not the only ghost abroad, there’s mine,
close on my heels, lurking by the rowan.

But turn from him and follow me, come
to this quiet corner
where carved stones whisper words,
where poems prowl by cairns
that held the light for Alba’s cause.

Hark! Up here MacDiarmid’s calling from the grave
to drunks and thistles, shafts of light,
to silver spirits shivering,
to lovers loitering, to anyone who’ll listen:
“ha’e faith in Scotland’s hidden poo’ers.”

Extract from Edinburgh, A Long Poem

by Eimear Bush (September–October 2020)

2 thoughts on “Royal Terrace, Calton Hill

  1. This is beautiful, haunting, like a Shakespeare poem, or an ancient Greek poet’s words. The line about seeing the couple dance under the chandelier and the feeling induced was touching. I felt it. This is a masterpiece. I loved it.


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