Poem introduction

Though born in Edinburgh, I spent much of my twenties and thirties drifting here and there across the globe, all very pleasurably. It wasn’t until I stood in the Calvinist grip of a Scottish winter’s afternoon that I at last accepted my Scottishness. Since then I have rejoiced in it!

Near Linton Burnfoot

Tarred roads, metal cattle-grids and wheel tracks mesh

so tightly no land can escape. Tractor ruts

cut deep into the grass to cross and double-stitch

the fields together. Where the high ground pushes upwards,

pylons rigid with electricity stand guard

upon the hills. Bridges staple running water,

lines of fence-posts nail the valley sides in place.

 

Rain and ploughed mud. Rooks' cries claw the air,

a banshee trapped in corrugated iron shrieks

to be released. Trees grasp at nothing,

and let go. It is a scene a child has painted,

splashing colours on sodden paper:

his carelessness might tear a mountainside apart.

 

Shingle being ground to nothing on the river-bed,

the clouds' silence soaking into the hills –

these are secrets I dare not tell

even to myself. They give weight

to every moment of my life.


from Histories Of Desire (Bloodaxe, 1995), © Ron Butlin 1995, used by permission of the author

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Recordings

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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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