A bleary chiel, monger o targes an dirks
redds his windae. Neist Holyrood Kirk

a shop chock fu o fudge. Taxis
judder on the setts. Naething mixter-

maxter here: some douce sea-maws
tak these white-washed wa’s for a new Bass Rock;

a kiltie tour-guide on an open-top bus
intones ‘Mary, Queen of Scots …

to a wheen toorie-hattit tourists,
huddlt and snell. The wan sun sclims

up stanes, tenements, turrets, crags,
to draw the chill fi the city’s banes.

I’ the kirkyaird, doos flap an rise
amang the tombs. Did these wierd

carved cherabim cam fleucherin
roon you, in your mad room? See –

a dosser’s blanket, drapt in a mausoleum
– we live and dee, and while leeving,

heap stane on stane. Ootbye,
cranes turn, navvies big wir pairliament,

a birth in stane. And when we’re deid
they gie us – stane, like this:

a ‘simple stone’, whaur all Scotia
‘Should pour her sorrows o’er her poet’s dust’.

Whit’s wrang wi dust? I’ve no min’ here
to flyte wi Burns, but staunin

unner the Calton Hill, Embro’s ‘disgrace’;
amang these smeekit monuments,

I’m thinking – poets are dust, or should be,
free tae blaw a’ tapsalteerie

aboot this brave, clean-swepit Canongate.
– Let dust be your memorial, no stane

then mibbe Scotia’s grun-doon specks
and mites could fin in your name

a champion; a constant irritant, alive.
– So when the wind pipes up a reel

and lowly grit affronts the eye
or marks the claith o oor weel-cut

new marconis, politicos, hacks and hoors,
let them a’ tak tent –

o the poet, Fergusson,
oor brilliant mote, oor breengin stoor.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN


Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences