Levity

Robert Crawford

Baghdad of the West, gallimaufry of Zahahadidery,
Heavy with locos, liners, yards and docks
Docked now of shipyards, sculpted, purled into shining
Titanium hulls where Wild West meets West End,
Your square-bashing sandstone kremlin an offcut of Venice,
Your galleries a showy clone of Santiago de Compostella,
One-off of sugar and gallusness, Adam Smith and preening baroque,
Art-schooled from birth, ark, blast-furnace of ship-in-bottle
Models and artwork, arsenic, scuffed footballs and chips,
Unsafe haven of hard matriarchs and lasses’ backchat, after-hours
Capital of banana boots and over-the-top porcelain fountains,
Wannabe Paris, pre-Chicago Chicago,
Fifty-first state of glottal-stopped, reeling smirr
In Helen of Troy rainhoods, your Charles Rennie Mackintosh brooch
Fogged with drizzle, champagned with Victorian catarrh;
Tenemented redoubt of roll-ups, landed with God’s geology
To use as your doormat, viridian lochs and bens,
Renaissance anvil of spires and boot-scrapers, Scotia Bar of bards,
Gay hardmen’s last stand, palace of perished velveteens,
All second-city edginess, fossil grove, puddled panache,
Operatic, fat, incessantly jumpy with static,
Gralloching yourself, tearing yourself apart
To hit back through lesions or drooled ferro-concrete bridges,
Jokes and spread-betting, canals, class-war and bombs
Flung by staunch hunger-strikers, polis of asbestos spit,
Morphing into a stained-glassed, ran-dan, ram-stam disco
Of theme-pub banks intact with mahogany counters,
Gothic lavvies, high flats, giddy deserts wi windaes
Looking out on the lashing, softening, incoming rain
Of tomorrow, its wetness honeycombed in glasshouses,
Tobacco lords and dry Snell Exhibitioners, fish that never swam,
Inner-city dolphins glimpsed off the starboard side,
Spanish Civil War fighters, Gorbals Lascars and lazars,
Lens-sellers, subway keelies, bibliographers
Bowling on bowling greens or strolling to Bowling or high
In library corridors hoisted by gaunt, spinal cranes
Seen from the Green, that Champs-Elysées of peely-wally faces
Hungry for liberté, égalité, fraternité
In all their forms, despite the imperial sweat
Of plunder they profited from, the feared years of tears and blood
Shed at home in domestic violence, Cath-Prod slashings, and away
Mismatches in thin red lines that still hurt, but can’t stop
The levity that’s yours and yours alone and will last
Longer than Horatian bronze just because it’s laughter.