Cliff Walk
[ Issue 32 ]

Cliff Walk delights Emily Bronto

Allow Bikwil to bring to light the enjoyment to be had from Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk

One winter’s afternoon they took a long stroll around the top of the cliffs at Watson’s Bay, in Sydney.  The poem Cliff Walk by Bet Briggs is a celebratory reminiscence of that event.  

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Cliff Walk — Bet Briggs

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On winter's shortest day
in June at moonrise
over sea and Watson's Bay,
we tracked the sea-wind-sculpted cliffs
and looked for northbound whales,
but saw no sign, no swirl,
no curving rise and fall
of form so loving of the water.
No gentle whale.
Another year perhaps.
Yet to us appeared
a gift of sweet surprises:

there, off North Head,
silent, soft and still,
like a pale fin
unmoving on moving water:
one small sail
as gentle and inseparable
as whale from wave and wind;

rarer still to needing eyes,
almost within reach:
a tiny miracle
twinkling along the path,
a dance of wrens
too quickly come and gone
from bushes at cliff's edge
and back to bush again.

As though their going were a sign,
in consolation for their loss,
like a caress, the moon
almost full and fully risen
cast its net of light
on shadowlands of ocean
and into deeper reaches still:
its tender trawling
held us both enthralled
and quiet in our own thought.

I was caught
for a moment at The Gap
feeling I could leap
without falling, step
with lightest step, up
and up that ribbon of light
and walk on the moon
as a friend
leaving nothing there:
no claim to violate
its peace, pollute
and make unclean
its feature, cloud its air,
disturb its broad sea
of tranquillity.

A moment so delicate
I could not speak of it,
that leaping beyond self.
The unspeakable remains
within to be recollected
in another moment
of tranquillity.

Our cliff walk ended then.
From The Gap we turned
away from sea and moon
and scanned the harbour shoreline
from city north to city south
and the Bridge between,
symphonic curve and sweep,
an arc of tensions frosted
with unblinking light:
tower windows, signs
pale blue and red,
far more of ghostly white.

Distant on the city's fringe
the west was still on fire
and high over all the towers
and neon's eerie glaze
the limpid sky becoming
between moonrise and sunclose
a watercolour rainbow
colours melding, drifting
down and deeper down
deepening into the burning west
burnt sienna burning down
to charcoal cloud
and the fire slowly died.

I watched the embers
and thought of a song
heard once in choir;
now, like a prayer
I heard again men sing
“The long day closes.”

When I am gone
I will not see
or hear as then
those tender beauties:
a solitary sail,
the feathered dancers,
moon serene above the sea,
light soft as lace in grace
unfolding,
song remembered and the voices
singing.

As my day closes
I will be part of them,
an element of elements,
a particle of light,
a tonal bud
for some new
flowering.

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