Tag Archives | cliffs


January 15

St Margaret’s, Ringwould, Kingswood: a drive over the downs, the road following the cliffs’ edge at a respectable distance. Acres of undulating green, three dark Scots Pines looking more Japanese than Scots, against a sky streaked with ice-blue and bruised clouds mimicking the shape of this landscape. I slow on the narrow road at works. A man with a perfect heart-shaped birthmark on his cheekbone straightens his back and waves me by.  Small pellets of ice begin to bounce on the windscreen.



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