'Glasgow is the best of plays: you can act in it and watch it at the same time.'
The narrow path leads down on the diagonal, close to the wall.
Intimate enough to see the fossil strata, the wisps of grass, what life
Insinuates its roots into the fissures, holds on, grows its green out upwards from the shadow,
And how the shadows fall across the canyon walls, and slowly lean and move across
Their textures, as the sun does its old arc thing once again. You move in closer when
The mule brigade ride up and want to pass, flatten yourself against the vertical
Plane behind you, watch them place their sure hoofs near the edge.
Thus I was in Arizona, years ago. Today, the pleasure on the path and edges of
The city is the same: a history of stories getting deeper in a walking world
Or maze of traffic made for circling, zig-zags, ziggaruts, explorable depths
And heights that show you out across the world in blue. Let's list a few.
One Sunday afternoon down by the Clyde, walking past the statue with her arms
Raised to remember the reason why the Spanish Civil War was fought, we came
To the Finnieston Crane, no-one around and the small gate in the fence unlocked.
We went up. Steel steps took us to the top, but standing on the horizontal there,
I saw a further ladder on the side wall of the cabin, got to the roof. And smoked a cigarette,
Looking around. The rooftops all before you and blue all the way to Arran, Ayrshire, South.
The conurbation, East. The Islands, West and North, and mountains in the North-West, through
The gap at the end of the Great Western Road, that leads you to the Gaeltacht,
By the pass of the Camel's Hump. Came down again and walked back into town.
Co-ordinate points, a history, a sense of what you still believe is: inextinguishable, live.
Scenic? Hardly. But nevertheless. What archeology supplies sets layers and connections in
The mind. What's now? Bridges and the river still, the skyline: Scott's Gothic tower points up like
Aspiration, spaceship-sharp; so much else points down, is earthed and mobile, Dennistoun bars and
West End brasseries. Take off the top of your skull and open your brain to the air: let's go
For the open-topped tour. Victorian Glasgow: George Square and grandiloquence, architecture
Rising and ornate, that flourishes its culmination in the Art School on its own diagonal, steep.
Below that, Merchant City, slave trade and tobacco lords, and money building East End
Market manners, commerce, a deep exchange of language, a currency we trade in, even now.
Below that, the Cathedral and the crypt to mark old Mungo and his long ago approach
To the Molendinar Burn, the water now to be seen only in a well up in Blackhill. But it's
The mix of the thing, the shoulders rub together, the acting as you walk and watch, the lifting
Of concern, the taking part: looming on that green-roofed, narrow-spired Cathedral is
Victoria's Infirmary, a massive block of stone and glass opaque with grime, and looming over both,
From further East, the shadowy Necropolis, the village of the dead, with John Knox high
On pillar at its summit, arm stretched out, in supplication? benison? Deer and foxes roam here now.
That's good. But not enough. Under that there's more. Just fourteen feet below St Vincent Street:
The carboniferous. Such knowledge as the strata bring began for me in childhood, walking with my
Papa from railway to bookshop to shop, arcade to arcade, where colours were bright on covers and
Spines and diamonds, and language spoke with beguilment, on pages and in air. Conversations
Made and make the space work bright: what seams streak through pollutions of the bad beliefs,
Bodies made to end in haste and unfulfilment, the pathos now itself cliche, industrial and after that.
So, not nostalgia, please. What is so sad and cannot now be claimed, is unreturnable.
Recognise that. Dividedness, and not diversity. It's there all right. But when you feel this city work,
As a friendly force that drives the green life up and out of the earth, the air enamelled blue
With all the conviction of speech in its best gambols, it's something worth a listen to and look
Around, and colourful, as Dore's Dante's deep Inferno, keeps you guessing, horrified, for people,
And knowing that the love and laughter, light, are in there too, right to the end.
From far beginnings we might never know, but what the present is, is what we do.