Cliff Jumping (a sestina)

We’ve hiked for hours to reach this eyrie cliff,
but now at the top all I feel is paralyzing fear
as I lean over the edge, looking at the drop,
the height from which my friends all plan to fall;
the pool below, some feet from where waves break
on rocks. Take care; don’t jump too far, you’ll hit.

It’s then I realize the height and I am hit
by wonder that I’m standing on this cliff
from which a fall could cause my bones to break,
and ponder that I did not reel with fear
when I peered over this cliff last Fall,
but then, too cold, I did not think to drop.

I toss a stone and see it quickly drop
and hold my breath and wait for it to hit
the pool. Too long I watch the poor stone fall,
so long a journey from the towering cliff,
and try to judge how long I’d take. I fear
I threw my stone too far, and saw it break.

I feel my resolution start to break.
My poor stone’s fate has made my stomach drop.
I do not understand how with no fear
my friend then runs and leaps. He will not hit
the rocks below, he knows this Georgian cliff,
and tucks his arms in for a perfect fall.

Then one by one I watch as my friends fall
and I am last, which leaves me with a break
to breathe, remember it’s mind over cliff,
and close my eyes to visualize the drop.
If I tuck in my arms before I hit,
not jump too far, I have nothing to fear.

This is my moment to conquer my fear
or else when I return again in Fall
I’ll know if I had tried, I could have hit
that jump, and wonder why I didn’t break
away from my self-doubt, which I should drop
in case I face in life another kind of cliff.

I still feel fear, but out of will I break
into a run. The fall’s a flash, I drop
and hit. The pool is cold beneath the cliff.

Cliff Jumping (a sestina)


Ottawa, Canada

  • Artist
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