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 above. 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)