When I was seven I thought all cliffs were made of clay;
the land stopping at a ragged brown edge
chewed like a comforter by a sea anxious to claim it.
The steps to the beach are a ladder once used on roofs,
now pinned to the thatch of turf and not quite
reaching, so you have to jump the last few feet.
I scramble up and down in muddy sandshoes,
with dirty knees and wind whipped cheeks
while my mother sits placidly with a flask of Bovril.
On the cliff top the land frays and lurches seaward,
below it dissolves like a sandcastle in the incoming tide
or oozes into chocolate pools like Fry’s Five Boys left in the sun.
On winter walks we see great bites of ground
slide recklessly downwards, and when summer comes again
the landscape is different; the ladder lost in a storm,
my shoes no longer fit, the flask has broken.
There is a new baby,
and even the earth is inconstant.
Painting by Myles Birket Foster, poem by yours truly.