Unstable Cliffs, the sign read. Extreme Danger. Stay Clear.
And I thought of the unstable Cliffs I had known:
The deputy that barked at me when I called in sick,
My cousin’s boyfriend who punched holes in the wall
Whenever he was denied,
And the glue-sniffing Cliff I taught in Year 11 who fell asleep
On the tracks and was run over by a train.
They should have come with warnings too.
I am outside late at night
About the poems
I have not written
The ones I’ve turned away from
Because of embarrassment
Or fear of shedding my jovial persona
and find somewhat alarmingly
that the poems I have not written
far outnumber the ones I have.
There was someone on the bridge
Curving high over the dark water
About half way along
Then there wasn’t.
Someone with a mop of ginger hair
an orange top and grey track pants
Standing against the railing
Looking wistfully out.
I looked away when a siren sounded
On the headland then looked back.
No disturbance of any kind.
No bright lithe form spearing
Through the water.
No one emerging from either end.
Just someone standing on a bridge
in a forest
Then there wasn’t.
You always want the last word.
Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror, question yourself?
You like things open and shut. In neat little packages.
Even when we can’t see you, we hear you.
I’ll give you this. You go about your work quietly, not like your loud, foot stamping cousins
But there’s so many of you. You could loosen up, give others a go.
I know in some countries you go by a different name
But a rose by any other name is still a rose
And a full stop by any other term is still a full stop.
“Bugger”, says Scruff. “Bugger”.
He’s back to his old intemperate self.
“What’s got your goat now?” I say.
“How am I supposed to get to the top branch now?? You know how I love the top branch. Someone took the tall ladder away and replaced it with THAT RUNT!!”
His wing is pointing at the little ladder against the weeping myrtle.
“Excuse me,” I say, “but you can’t expect the gardener to consult with magpies every time he shifts a ladder.”
Scruffy has that evil look in his eye.
“Besides”, I add, “has anyone ever pointed out those two appendages, one on each side of your body? They can get you places.”
“Sarcastic snob!” he snaps. “I use them all the time like you your legs. Aches and pains. I prefer to hop up rungs.”
“Have it your own way,” I say, but my heart goes out to him all the same. “I know what you mean,” I add. “I’ll speak to the gardener.”
I notice a little spring in his hop.
The rain has begun.
I park the car close as possible, then dodging the drops, duck into the library.
“Ahh,” says the librarian, “we’ve been wading through your requests and look what’s washed up.”
It is like Santa handing over a present.
“Ahh, ‘Waterlog’”, I say.”The perfect book to read in the bath,”
“Just don’t drop it,” he says.
I should have seen that coming but Steve is quick, very quick.
“Thanks,” I say and we have a brief chat on the merits of reading in strange places, like baths.
“Have to go”, I say. “The rain’s getting heavier.”
By the time I get to the car, the book and I are waterlogged.
Steve would have appreciated that pun.
Now I don’t have to worry about dropping it in the bath.
It’s Milly’s birthday today.
Yes. But what do you buy a cat who has everything?
Yes. The next time she gets on the roof and can’t get down all she has to do is jump.