The Cliff
by Simon Brod

Up there – so they say

at the top, right at the edge,
grow dead man’s bells.

Pulled by the wind
they swing on their stalks
white and unkempt,

tolling the sky,
the giddy peril,
the all-swallowing sea.


In your mind’s eye

study that face of rock
solemn as a soothsayer’s
all its shades fading to yellow

run your fingertips lightly over its skin
the brow weathered and cracked
prickly with juniper, pungent with fennel

find warm finger-firm angles
hand-hugging hollows
the comfort of sun on the back of your neck
knobbles and fissures for toeholds in unseen places

and lower down, on its thin lips,
just inches away from yours,
amid the wailing of terns and petrels,

delicate swirls of bone-white fossil
in beds of ochre or grey,
pocked and ridged to touch

curled in death.


Late afternoon,

the air is strong with mayweed and salt.
Imagine you could rise on the breeze
like a seabird at sunset
into purple and crimson
and see its whole commanding height glow gold;

while at its base, the chin
chiselled by time and sea
to a sunless place,
slimy with glasswort and lichen,
casts a chill. Waves sigh
at its throat.

I paddle my boat
up close to the limestone, slowly stand
(it bucks on the swell and threatens to throw me),
reach up both hands to cold damp stone

and hoist myself free.