Poem introduction

David Hume believed that natural benevolence was a basic human trait – a walk round the city centre usually confirms this. People like us – ‘the understudies for no known part in no known play’ – have only got each for support against those who seem determined to tell us how to live our lives.

The Circle Dante Wasn't Shown

 

Having reached this stretch of unrecorded ground,

this level stillness of relentless day, we’ve found

we are alone. Those raising up their hands are branded

by the sun, those falling on their knees in prayer

are kept there. The rest of us trudge forwards – heat

and searing light force us on . . .

 

Meanwhile: You’re waiting for the phone to ring,

waiting for a letter, email, fax, any bloody thing

hinting at reprieve. Each day’s a stay of execution:

the stop-and-go of traffic at the lights, the green man, red,

Facebook, Twitter, what the checkout woman said

about the bonus points redemption scheme . . .

You still believe no-one’s to blame?

When your turn comes / your card gets swiped / you sign your name.

 

We are the circle Dante wasn’t shown:

the understudies for no known part in no known play

– we’re waiting to come on

and never will.

 

Meanwhile: Unpack the Tesco bag-for-life.

Unwrap the pre-cooked chicken, the no fuss

prewashed, farmfresh mussels-in-their-shell.

                                               

Nearby, in hell, another evening falters to a standstill.

 

Meanwhile: Fade out the city streets, the sky, the background music of the spheres –

 

We’ll wait with you till everything around you disappears:

wait upon this stretch of unrecorded –

this level stillness of –

this heat and

searing

light


from Without A Backward Glance (Barzan Publishing, 2005), © Ron Butlin 2005, used by permission of the author

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1A History of the Glass Kingdom

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2A Recipe for Whisky

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3All That We Have

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4Coming of Age

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5Darien II

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6David Hume Takes a Last Walk on Arthurs Seat

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7Disposable Buildings Are Made for Disposable Lives

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8EH1 2AB

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9Elegy

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10Frederic Chopin Tweets from the Edinburgh Hogmanay Party

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11Histories of Desire

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12Inheritance

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13James Hutton Learns to Read The Hieroglyphics

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14Kickstarting History

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15Mozart

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16My Grandfather Dreams Twice of Flanders

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17Near Linton Burnfoot

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18Nice Has Become a Suburb of Edinburgh

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19Our City Listens to Itself

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20Pairty Piece

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21Prayer

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22Rehearsals for the End of Time

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23Remembering a Good Friend

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24Scottish Mouse and Scottish Cat

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25The Circle Dante Wasn't Shown

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26The Electric City of Heck

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27The Kinder Artist

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28The Magicians of Edinburgh

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29The Other Edinburgh

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30The Roman Invasion of Scotland

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31This Evening

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32Tony Blairs Butterfly Effect

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