XXII. St. Stephen Street Here men wear trousers chosen for the fruit they eat – cherry, lemon, plum, and apricot. Stock fashion. Plaited belts, hair that tickles silk cravats (in paisley print) tucked into shirts (two buttons open), gold rimmed spectacles, pocket squares poke from Harris tweed. Men who say, ‘brisk breeze today,’ buy croissants fresh each morning, dine alone at lunchtime with a half carafe. A study in antiquity, a street where old meets new; where visitors are greeted by a brutish hulk of church, square-jawed, dark steps, porchway where dark phantoms might dwell. I look away, afraid who might be crouching there. A woeful church, its glory days have crumbled like the street it watches over in mild disintegration, moth-eaten, dog-eared, rising damp, it squats dejected, like Miss Havisham waiting for the past to saunter by. Which has its charm, of course, as does the epoch shop with wedding dresses, or Miss Bizio selling Jackie-O pill-hats, and Mr Purves peddling storm lamps, the old-school vinyl record shop, stuffed parrot in a window. Allure of old-world goods marked up to prices that befit this chi-chi neighbourhood. One shop will valet, service and repair your child’s pushchair. Imagine that! On cue, Mum passes on her bike, a capsule fixed up front, just like a sidecar repositioned. There sits wee Archie, chewing his giraffe, squeezed in beside mum’s shopping: coriander, goat’s cheese, pine nuts for pilaf. I’ve not walked here since Eóin lived in that flat two floors up, ice-box cold, cracked floorboards, mice. Looked out onto a dance school opposite, close to private gardens. Cachet location, meaning landlords hiked up rents till tenants said, ‘I beg your pardon? That’s enough to fly me to the moon!’ The old brass bell pulls might be pretty, and bookshops on one’s street a rarity these days, but Golden Hare or no hare I could not bear to live somewhere like here. XXIII. Water of Leith Start off at Modern One – Paolozzi on the lawn – bear east and walk a mile or two, turning at Arboretum Avenue. Well-named, trees abundant, oak and yew, beech and laurel, crazy Rothko colours bursting orange-red, nameless shades of yellow dispersed by autumn’s windy bawl. Rustle, crunch, snap, babble: underfoot timpani of tinder-dry foliage, child drags a stick along a railing, tig-a-tig- a-tig, water gushes, rushes under Dean Bridge. From a hazel, a blackbird song soars. The path is damp and slimy; sun cannot breach the branches to dry this gorge, gulch, gouge through Edinburgh’s heart. It runs to mud. Ripples bulge up through the path, birch roots breaching tarmac, five fingered leaves, sycamore, point to a statue knee deep in the weir. He stares into the depths. I spot another, his brother, hunkered by St. Bernard’s Bridge. Art for the public, celebrated Gormleys for the masses. For me, two apparitions, eerie and consoling. When I forget he might be on my heels, he rises from the water, reveals that fixed stare, my sentinel, whom, when I choose to notice, is everywhere. Flash of white, dipper alights upon his head and we lock eyes. Message relayed: flow like water, wade in, drift along its course, see what its current will arrange. Tonight, the clocks will change.
Edinburgh, A Long Poem
Eimear Bush (September – October 2020)