The Ballad of Lothian Road


Curve down from the High, the soot black rock
Like a solo voice in a scene setting shot
Tether yourself like a scuffed gull on city wind
To the hard corners of a head office, citibanks
Finance castles piss and vomit stained at the bottom,
Skaters grind off steps and suits eat sushi
In the cemetery, below the ancient chapel,
The sunk car park, further down is the pubic triangle
Where women dance on poles, “bankers and pussy
Are never far apart”, darkened doors and dealings
Under trees dead in the centre of pavements
A squat clocktower rings in your hours
One day a man with a ladder comes
And we lose some more daylight
On Lothian Road 

Aye Lothian Road
Is full of freaks, he said
One grey lunchbreak, holding
A limp supermarket sandwich
And soon I saw them: the lost and lonely
The one and only, stammering, rubbing their hands
Drawing shapes on their scalp with their nails
The bearded ladies, the buggy babies
Skulls gone skew from lying too long
Men and dogs, nipping at coins
Something gone wrong
On Lothian Road

Note Lothian Road,
Which was built in a day to win a wager
From whistle clean sunrise to late summer glare
The work gangs fed on bread and porter,
Is now being dug up: men in day-glo waistcoats
Set about the old grouts, drills and pressure hoses
Smoke on kerbs, peel the grey scum back;
For the Old Town is all falling down on the hill
(We must widen the girth of cellars and sewers
Fence the crescent gardens, raise bollards)
For the New Town is all falling into the river
So they curse the craftsmen who laid it for a wager
Carted the gravel, the kerbstones, poured the black tar
From steaming cauldrons, another layer of city sorrow,
Above the nor’loch, the plagues and witches,
Inventors of logarithms, opium eaters
Were buried here (I told the tourists not knowing
Whether it was true and no one really caring)
Beneath the oily wrappers and fuck me boots, the last layer of rain
That washes off black, exhaust and carbon, cancer black
And god knows where
Off Lothian Road

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