Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 364

Cliff at Noss

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,
named for the wandering planets.
Or is it 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 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.

Imogen Forster

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