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Circus on Calton HillRobin Robertson
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Vol. 18 No. 8 · 18 April 1996
Poem

Circus on Calton Hill

Robin Robertson

188 words

Edinburgh burns below us,
this blazing day
where flame’s invisible, a dark wave
lapping at the petrol’s grain, as the fire-eaters
assuage their thirst.
The fanned embers of the city rustle
like the wrappers of sweets; heat
tinkering in the coal.
Sitting under the colonnade,
we are so close we almost touch.

Tumblers flip and flex,
desultory on the dry grass;
gulls channer in the stunned heat,
shedding air above us
and over the baking Craigleith stone,
to bank away to the airish Firth
and Inchkeith Island,
the Ferry and the May.
I watch you watching jugglers; the obligatory
lovers, and a snake-woman swallowing a sword.

You are turning heliotropic in this
acropolis of light, barely breaking sweat.
Lifting your hands to your hair a drop
runnels down under one arm to its cup
and the swell of your breast, and I am brimming,
scalding, kittling in the heat,
aching for you at the root of my tongue.
But I cannot find you; as you focus on the girl,
the girl on the grass below: her eyes closing,
her soft mouth as she bends to his.

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