St Andrew Square, Eyre Place

XIII.	St Andrew Square

Bring back Highwaymen!
Have them roam the streets.
Have them pistol-pin us with the order,
‘Stand and consider!’
Pay close attention to the open sky.
Never lie.
Sit on the stone benches bordering
St Andrew Square. Mull, ruminate, notice
the steel-toe-capped booted, yellow-vested
builders eating sandwiches under high-plinthed
Henry Dundas, ‘Grand Manager of Scotland.’
No uprising here.
They slouch, slurp, skim
The Daily Record on their lunchbreak
from the concrete rise and fall
of St. James’ Quarter.

And do these men give a shit as they lean
their backs upon the base
on which stands Edinburgh’s son,
Provost, Lord Advocate,
Home Secretary? He fell from grace,
effigy burnt – The Dundas Riots,
1792 – right here where workers
massed to bellow ‘Freedom! Revolution!
Repeal the corn laws!
Give our families food and dignity!’

Like life,
memory is short
and we have shelved appeals for liberty,
no trace now of cries and pleas
and mutiny, unless I hear it
from the arrowhead of greylag geese

Now, there is a Costa cabin by the tram stop,
high-end restaurants, hotels, Harvey Nicks,
modern sculptures, blasé wanderers
like me, oblivious to how dizzy
he must feel raised high
with only pigeons, herring gulls
and jackdaws for company –
and they give lots of shits.
The ignominy!

Could be worse,
you might get torn down yet, Lord D.
for where you stood on slavery.

XIV.	Eyre Place

Not often do I walk in New Town,
scrubbed steps, well-watered wealth
dripping from sills and shutters,
leaded bevelled glass, grand pianos
pushed to window bays, aspidistras, pelmets,
dozen setting dining tables, candles,
brass knockers shaped as foxes’ heads,
as pinecones, or as hares, Range Rovers parked
outside. They must drive north to gun the grouse,
not hunt for poor men’s food like rabbit –
they’d be out for deer. But I surmise,
what do I know, could be just for show
and this a meat-free home.

A masked man smiles at me, lips wrapped in
Van Gogh’s starry night, his eyes bestow the smile.
I wonder what the crazed master would think
to see us now, mouths patched like his sliced ear.
Yet we’re deafer still, not listening –
‘no platform here!’– shouting others down,
so keen to be accepting, free from prejudice,
that we’re terrified of difference.

I drift in mind, on foot, flâneuse around
this town, when a shadow from a basement-flat
pulls me back to now.
It’s dark and mossy,
overgrown down there,
and I was sure a face looked up
with blood-shot eyes.
Instead, the pyracantha berries,
not my watchful spectre,
have come to pry.

Extract from Edinburgh, A Long Poem

by Eimear Bush (September–October 2020)

2 thoughts on “St Andrew Square, Eyre Place

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