Poem for the staff of the city’s Waste and Cleansing Department

Waste & Cleansin Department

Half-way through a morning shift with Stuart, Kevin & Robert

Strictly street dancing

for Edinburgh’s Waste & Cleansing Department

Bins lurk in starlit chill.
Fifteen tonners rev,
beams sweep tarmac.
Rotas are ticked,
men leap aboard,
double gloved, high vis’d.

There’s a mix of new Scots and
Edinburgh-through-and-through Scots:
crews with two loaders, and a driver
skilled to reverse up cul de sacs,
wind past parked cars,
leave side-mirrors intact.

They watch out for each other,
know the drill to make it flow:
grab two bins, birl them, make a pair,
nudge them to the cradle, check and
trundle them back, grab two more…
it’s a Dashing White Sergeant

it’s a repertoire, with rhythm
and precision, a get up and go.
Bins dance in sequence too:
handstands, a wobble, balance, then
down to waiting hands, while
the hopper compacts and gobbles.

Stop, start, stop, start. Keep your cool
with drivers in a hurry. A gap: a minute
of banter, snatch of song, drive on.
They know their route by heart:
each cobbled street, each judder, jolt,
each turning place, each missing bin.

And a cheery wave to the child who,
like the boy awaiting the lamp-lighter,
watches at her window:
their momentary attention
their brightness
their beaming smiles.

Christine De Luca