Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 220: Portobello

Portobello Strand

We come to this northern shore to be polite —
to share in this finished, open health,
this slow-walking, seagull-shot spirit-calm
and leave our poisoned arias behind —
the banal, internecine brutality,
the choking, distending messes
of our exploited home countries —
for a chance at this semi-salt clean.

Brazilians check festival tickets,
Poles serve up fried haddock and chips
with ketchup at Portobello strand
where even the bees demure from stinging.

We come here — Chinese, Tibetans, Nepalese,
Muslim Indians, Christian Pakistanis

for Noble Leisure! Prize Bingo!
walking this wide, untrammelled bay
gripping white moccasins in one jewelled hand.

A blank blade of paper's running crosswise
cutting through fevered muscle memory —
clutted-up disenfranchisement,
stiff, bloated, wracking despair
some Portuguese how-to-get-in-touch-with-you's
are languidly transversing — paper
soaking up wound-energy in pools
just by virtue of its blankness passing through,
pain forming fine new patterns on the page
as of words written there by agency

satisfying a cyclical urge for nuance
mature as October sunset, its tree-line
ribboning the glen-side umber and auburn —
colours singing the sky's longing for earth
in their very leaves' crippling, their colour-blood
perfectly, aesthetically spilling down.

This was the method of Job's tears,
building castles by dribbling sand.

Sometimes worshippers march, creating holes,
little rips in the space-time continuum
through which they would grab baser glories.

"Even so, Beloved, I at last record,
Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth,
I rise above abasement at the word.
Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth."


Andrew Singer

(Quote is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese)

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