Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 9: Edinburgh - Auld Reekie

Edinburgh, February, Night

We stampede through the Cowgate, nicotine
And tar oiling our breath, Auld Reekie’s ancient
Burn lingering, centuries on. In new lungs now,
Blackening fast: we smoke her in.
To Nicolson Street, a meeting of jeans and tights
Around the two am ATM under
Bright lights pupils wide, cash out, move on,
Cross streets without turning heads, the
Heads on the bus for Morningside turn
To see us running by, side-stepping
Sidewalks, trampling the dotting lines of streets,
Vein fire jetting us forward, jettisoning our
Days into the blank of night, the
Blight in our heads crashing out:
No route, just forward.

Joe moans outside Tesco’s,
Shutters closed, pounds on the window
Ah jist Let Me In, Ah jist wanna fag Let Me
Barnacled onto the shop.
We leave him on the tide,
Press into the heavy air, sirens somewhere,
Not here, we won’t hear them.
Princes Street’s a mess of neon and mannequins,
The homeless breathing clouds, it’s
Winter but we haven’t felt it,
We have gills for this kind of air, smoke it in.
Heat rises from us: we’re the animals
David Attenborough couldn’t explain,
In our pack, hunting maybe, gathering
Night in our pockets, eye sockets
Pounding now, heels pounding ground,
Let Me Let Me Let Me—

We summit Calton Hill, stop.
Arthur’s Seat looms,
Exhausted by dead fires.
The others slump onto the monuments as
I fumble my feet up, hit my knee
Hard on the half-erected Parthenon.
Scotland’s Folly.
Over the Firth the dawn dons her glittery robes,
Takes a drag of the new, shimmering sky.

We sigh, breathe her dewy scent into
Our singed lungs. Let her in.

Kathryn Ailes

Continuing our tour of Scotland in poems, we move on to Edinburgh with a flavour of the night life there.

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