Northwords Now Issue 39

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Cliff at Noss

by Imogen Forster

They say this wet rock reaches
as far down into the sea
as the cliff stands dry above.

Staring into the drowning dark,
under the glassy slip and swell
of its elastic skin, I see what
could be plankton, ocean-drifters,
name-kin of the wandering planets.
Or might this be no more
than a fine land-dust, endlessly
falling through unbordered black?

Does the cliff drop sheer, a mirror
picture of its twin in upper air?
Or is it loose, stepped and slabbed,
bottoming in a shifting rubble field,
tide-stirred, worked smooth by storms?

Gannets, saffron-smudged,
their tails as stiff as whittled wood,
bank on ink-dipped wings, hang
as if strung on wires, plunge
in arrow-showers, seeing what
I cannot see: the silver-flashing
shoals, rock-anchored urchins
and soft incurled anemones.

Each bird rises from its narrow
ledge, dives, a sea-forager,
returns and dives again,
water and air its single element.