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27th September 2008
The Revolution Is Established / a poem
by Mike Scott

Edinburgh in winter; snowbound
white from turret to coast
and silent
heavy towers of fear hang in the air as the city waits
the Royal Mile barricaded from St Giles to Knox's House
sandbags and stockades on South Bridge
ten thousand eyes keep watch
but no hand moves

Suddenly the crack of a gunshot
echoes against high stone
and fades into distance
sucking into itself
a bare second of silence
the night erupts
yells, whistles, crashes
the putt putt of rifle fire
the crackarack of machine guns
and heavy booted footfall
of platoons of armed men
running across the castle esplanade

within minutes
Princes Street Gardens
is black with assassins
and wild mobs clash on the Mound
within an hour
the childrens' crusade in the Grassmarket
- all pikes, idealism and futile banners -
meets catastrophe

beacon flames flash on Calton Hill
boiling oil pours down Cockburn Street
while bodies hurled from North Bridge
smash through the glass roof of Waverly Station
and crash broken onto empty platforms
militiamen march along Shandwick Place
snipers creep along Jenners roof
saboteurs lurk in Advocate's Close, Horsemen charge down West Bow
seditionists run like shadows down Jawbone Walk
as a thousand old enmities and grudges of every flavour and gravity
are acted out in the crucible
of the war-struck city
while eight miles away
pocket battleships on the river Forth
hurl well-aimed shells at Holyrood and Parliament

In the hazy distance
giant smoke plumes curl and sway above Corstorphine Hill,
burning scarlet in the setting sun
time spins bewildered as the one o'clock gun
is fired at evening time
and Mons Meg is pressed into service
for the first time in two hundred years

At midnight I crawl from my cave on the Vennel Steps
in the shadow of the Heriots wall
I see a firing squad with prisoner blindfold
a shot rings out
once, twice
the executioners fall like empty sacks

Down the frosted bloodstained streets of night we run,
evading ambush, checkpoint and sniperfire
bringing word and secret sign
where word and secret sign are needed
until in the small hours
the foe is driven back on the Mound
George the Fourth Bridge is taken
then Waverly, Usher Hall, the old Royal High School
one by one
all the enemy's strongholds collapse
until finally the Castle falls

Now the forces of liberation flow in all directions
like water finding its level
through close, alley, street and road
the revolution is established!
new flags are raised over dome and rampart
while the old are dragged torn and trampled
along blood-red
cobbled streets

©2008 Mike Scott