Tontine Ghosts

By Stephanie Green

        How many ghosts are in this close?

        As many flakes as in a wad of tobacco


        as much sugar as sippped in their coffee

        by men with ebony canes as black as slaves


        as many Tobacco Lords in scarlet cloaks,

        swaggering under the piazza arches


        as many heads as the keystone grotesques:

        Green Men with leaves growing out of their brains


        as many bewigged merchants and speculators,

        grimacing like Tragic Masks to scare the weans.


        How do you separate truth from fiction?

        As real as Taggart filmed in this wynd


        as fantastic as the real-life crime

        committed while the cameras rolled


        as foul as the blood-stained mattress found,

        no corpse but how many ghosts?


        As many Christmas lights and tinsel

        have gone to their death in the vaults*


        as many blinks the E of the Empire* winked

        before the stars on the screen blacked out.


Notes:  the George Square Christmas lights are stored here when not in use;

The capital E of the Empire sign (a former cinema) used to blink on purpose.  The story goes that the usual electrician was off sick one day and a temporary one was called in who fixed the blink thinking he was doing them a favour. Not that this story is particularly relevant to my poem but I liked it enough to pass on to you.


Performed in Tontine Close as part of the Hidden City 5 project organized by ConFAB as part of the Merchant City Festival, Glasgow, 2009.  The poem along with others performed by 26 other poets at various sites is published in Hidden City 5 Anthology edited by Rachel Jury, (published by Dancing Rabbit Productions, 2009.)