Brink

You climb the narrow ledge and path
and grasp at tussocks on the way –
plait your fingers through coarse strands
held in soil, thin as old man’s skin.
You climb.
Below, reduced to toys, the ferries come and go,
make trails that wash against the weed-black boulders
far below.

This is where one finds perspective,
high at the crumbling edge of knowledge,
where rusting gun stumps wart the downland,
and cropped grass heals the scars of bombing.

Here sanity splits a cliff from sky –
foothold from wild precipitation.
Here lingers ropes of twisted air –
despair which took that step too far.
You dare yourself a lean and peer,
your hands’ extended fingers, upward curving at the tips,
are a remnant instinct – twinge of wings.

You pull away,
scream inwardly at your birdbrain devil.
Something calls you back,
like the kittiwake’s echo off polished stones,
the wind through picked-clean shells,
or the bitter sap of wild cabbage
in your nostrils’ flare.

You try to brush the white stuff from your clothes,
but take a little of Dover home.

© Caroline Fox Betts 2010

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