Following on from Charlottesville Magi Gibson has written this anti-fascist poem remembering the events of George Square the day after the Independence Referendum.
She writes about “being an eyewitness – indeed standing right next to – what unfolded there both when and after the Unionists arrived to celebrate their victory in the square. I was there by total chance, but stayed on to bear witness. Right up to the kettling into Buchanan Street by the mounted police.”
Her new book ‘Washing Hugh MacDiarmids Socks’ is out now by Luath.
Today – Tuesday 22nd August 3.30 – 4.45pm she appears with political cartoonist Greg Moodie, at The Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Street, Edinburgh to discuss how different art forms are used to deliver a political punch.
A still September evening, we spill
from Queen Street Station, down
sun-streaked steps to George Square
where sad clumps of lads and lassies
wreathed in Saltires and tartan sit scattered,
grieving the death of their dream of a better nation.
One lad strums a battered guitar,
plastered with stickers curled at the edges,
Yes We Can, Forever Aye, Saor Alba.
In tiny kilts and tammies girls with tear-stained faces
hug and hum along, when suddenly the air vibrates,
a cavalcade of honking horns, a roisterous parade
of cars and vans revs up in a flap
of massive Union Jacks. Shouts and yells
crack the air. A crowd on foot invades the square
as if someone unseen somewhere has fired
a starting gun. Mums, dads, grannies all come
streaming in. Babies in buggies. And lo!
Britannia herself! Breasts high in a scarlet bra,
a swirling skirt of ribbons, red, white, blue, swirling
round her spray-tanned thighs. And women, waving
voddie bottles, singing like a choir of Furies
Ye can stick yer independence up yer arse!
And trickling through their midst, young bloods,
cans in fists, unfurling Union Jacks, the Red
Hand of Ulster, the Cross of St George.
The early evening sun’s still bright, but
shadows fall. A chill. We stand stock still.
Yet feel as if we’re slowly
sliding somewhere we don’t want to go.
Fists punch the air. The referendum victory’s theirs
and now they want the square. But that’s not all.
Men swarm around a statue, clamber up
its sides, neck veins bulge, forearms thrust,
faces gargoyle as they form a seething mass
Rule Britannia, Britannia Rules the Waves.
Capricious as cells splintering from a cancer clump,
random as sparks from a raging blaze, some lads
split from its seething edge. One singles out
a kilted lass, spits in her face, struts off, pleased
as a playground thug. Another shoves
a blonde girl to the ground, wrests her Saltire
from her hand, sneers at his mate, sets
the flag alight. They laugh. The ‘Yes’ kids don’t
retaliate. Defiantly they sing their Flower of Scotland
requiem, mill around, confused. Union families drift off home,
robbed of their celebration by their own.
Police arrive on horseback. Define a thin blue line.
A neo-fascist lights a flare. A flash of luminescent green.
Ejaculate of hate. The hydra-headed gargoyle vents its spleen
in vomit flame and battle screams. And we stand quietly,
wondering: Are these the Unionists who won the vote?
Or fascists spoiling for a fight?
These men who scream as if some primal fear’s
been stamped into their brain at birth, coded
in their DNA, as if afraid that all they have might
suddenly be snatched away if they don’t fight fight fight.
Or is it boredom’s pulled the pin from the grenade
of thwarted masculinity? Are they so tired of being bossed
around, being constantly ground down
by humdrum mind-numb jobs they cannot stand?
While in this fascist brother-band they find
a place to flex their biceps, beat their chests, wield a club,
a gun, a knife, an iron bar, say I am Warrior!
Just then their voices rise as one –
God Save Our Gracious Queen!
The Hydra they’ve become roars and rears,
but makes no move to charge. And we stand
where we always will, staring fascists down.
Knowing them for what they are. Little men
who measure out their lives in lager cans of fear
and hate, desperate to be no longer small,
unheard, unseen. No longer impotent and bored.
And just for this one moment, not easily ignored.
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