This isn’t a ghost story but it is a story about ghosts

(to be read aloud)

This is a story as old as time 
that happened last week

A story about ghosts
but it isn’t a ghost story

A fish wives’ tale
of absolute truth.

In the third hour of a Monday morning I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. Pulling tightly on my throat, a rope of my mother’s own flesh and love and labour that carried blood and vitality to my body when still a part of hers, became a noose pulling tightly pushing maybe on my neck in the immediate tension between birth and death at 3am. The Witching Hour. Or in other words the exact time when the wall between the physical world and that of spirit is at its most transparent. I was born balancing in the state between being and not.

This isn’t a ghost story,
but it is a story about ghosts.

The last time I saw him was at night, twelve years after his death. Smoke seeps in so strong I can smell it even in sleep, rolled up paper, a glowing orange circle in the darkness. Smiling, sitting, in a single chair with no surrounding, a single chair in a vacuum. He is nowhere. He is in between, balancing like my birth between being and not. I was surprised to see him, pleasantly, wondering if there was meaning to this visit. It turned out later that day that Hibernian football club won the Scottish Cup; that explains the smile then. The last one was in 1902 so he never got to see it in his lifetime, or lifetime as we know it anyway. 

I felt like what happened that day went further than usual final whistle violent anger rushing feelings joy commiserating slashing knives masculinity on steroids babies conceived organised fists blissful fights kissing strangers in pubs public outbursts. It was communal catharsis of a whole place. Not quite a city, but that bit the city claimed as part of its own, when we all know the line is still drawn at the Boundary Bar. It’s not the Boundary anymore though, it’s a German Beer Haus. Gentrification or moving on, depends what way you look at it. 

This is a story about ghosts,
but it isn’t a ghost story.

If Edinburgh was cobbled roads and the castle and poets meeting on Rose Street, then Leith was dock yards and socialism, solidarity and strikes, speeches at the foot of the walk. Decline of industry created a lot of ghosts. Ghost towns, ghost harbours, people became shadows. The same was happening in Glasgow; at one point a quarter of the world’s ships were being built on the Clyde. Steel was going to be the future but the 80s brought Maggie’s iron fist instead. After this point it was said there were more bodies in the Clyde than boats on top of it. Places once alive with activity and community now lay derelict and forgotten until eventually land was filled with student housing, gastropubs and coffee houses. Gentrification or moving on. I know what way he’d be looking at it.

This isn’t a ghost story,
but it is a story about ghosts.

Part of the Art Writing 2019-20 contribution to 12-Hour Non-State Parade International Symposium, Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, Saturday 30 November 2019, 11am – 11pm.