Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 174: Edinburgh

City Chambers Masquerade

I

A member of the council recites a poem by Robert Burns,
in the stomach of the city an immense conundrum churns.
In doorways beggars faces bleed an odd contentment,
there are eyes inside of clouds, there are things no eyes cement.

This the western mystery, a memory commenced at night
threatens to dissipate in light
that streams from centreless interiors, creeping thru words
of love and madness and the perjuries of diamond hearts.
An emancipation stops and starts

and stops to bitter, deep agendas. Japanese tourists photograph
the Scott monument, Thomas Campbell’s statue, the Cenotaph.
A sign of some hurricane eclipse of the moon collides with stone walls.
A silence deep as death, struggling for breath, rises, falls.

Things anomalous float in the sediments of justice,
in a night without dreams that comes constantly descending
from parapets undying, from unparalleled cryptic domes.
A procession of cars without passengers or drivers
moves with a strange intent, as if trying to stop these days

from devolving into hours then into seconds where only
intolerance is tolerated.  The psychic stench of flowers
circulates through cracks and grates, the open windows
through which is seen no face but the countenance
of that which claims we’re all the same.  Chronometers of the lonely,

birds on the heads of statues, children still in wombs,
trumpets of them and us, harmoniums of him and her,
simultaneously let slip an illusory exterior.
Countless times I’ve been here yet it feels like the first time,
half a foreigner, half a citizen, is there stairs that I must climb?
Leading to some colonnade adorned with demons, bards and angels.

It is the mind that is electric, it is the body sung that’s limp.
I know it through these streets, these deathless throughfares
where god-forsaken imps partake of questionairres.
I hear so many people talk into their phones
about humanists with guns and the blessings of the drones.
Amid litanies of survival, amid reversible religions,
can patriotism save my soul?  Is it time to feed the pigeons?

II

The 25th of January, drunk on whiskey in the Horseshoe bar,
I beseech the ghosts of Burns and Crane, Emerson and Poe,
they do not seem to hear, in the corner a blue guitar
sounds carefully a nothingness, one that seems to grow

until the voices of the patrons quickly blend into one voice,
saying for one to die, one first must be conceived.

A new history looms
like a giant prehistoric bird squawking a bewitching indolence,
a group of men get out their brooms and sweep,
there's whispers of Amen, a kind of quantum leap, a secret rocking to and fro.

Who are these undeserving beneficiaries?
Some are amphibians, some are participants in a new false state of being.

Some are concentrated mirrors immersed in unreflecting.
Some are gods escaping to sub-basements.

III

Queens Park at 9 am, I walk a black dog,
children and their mothers gather round the petting zoo,
the animals too nervous, they are best inside their cages,
in their cages everything is true.

The daffodils are out, young loves float in the residuum of Spring,
thru a weightlessness that weighs old men go a roving,
all that is behind them now of their own imagining, half in tune they sing,

mind to mind, eye to eye,
walking through the buds that fall slowly from waking trees,
a voice demands they take off their hats and fall upon their knees,
but the old men are intimate with gravity,
they know the invisible is misperceived.

Somewhere in the deep grasses people emerge from pods,
birds so dark and foul, congregate, conspire,
leave me to dream or not to dream, or lock my mind in some ruin’d tower,
something is coming, silent as a mountain, invisible as music,
stars will hibernate in consecrated skies.

In the infancy of a fog,
I carefully turn the pages of a book whose name I can’t recall,
within it there are words like hunter and hunted,
simplicity, sleeplessness, murder.

Is it time to feed the swans?  Are there hours between these dawns?
Should I pour a soft refrain?  Assent?  Be sane?

 

Derek Brown

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