Closing my eyes on a cliff path

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Pembrokeshire, UK

I’ve always been very short-sighted, wearing glasses since the age of 4. Hypermyopic eyes like mine are shaped more like a rugby ball than a football and the retinas are under strain, which can lead to problems like detached retinas (which I had at the age of 15 and then again at 53) and macular degeneration, which is common in people over 80 but I developed it at 46. I have an overwhelming gratitude for my sight, particularly when I’m in wild and beautiful places.

I came close to blindness

Three years ago
Ten years ago
Forty years ago
Three near misses -

So I often think
Where would I be
without sight?

What would I know
of this day, this path?

Heat bounces
from the rock.

My ears tell the tale
of waves breaking far below.

I hear how the combine-harvester
sweeps around the field, away and back,
the blessed absence of cars.

Stonechat and chough
tell me their names,
curlew and kittiwake call.

The birds tell me of scrubland,
open cliff, or the washed-out
shallow pan of the estuary.

Bees fumble the sweet gorse
beneath the small flies’ higher whine.

Oh but what I would miss!

velvet brown butterflies
cinnabar moths flash red
thistledown floating in the hot air
kestrel hanging by a thread

gannet arrowing to the sea
a seal’s sleek head

And the cliff edge -
Fickle, fragile, lethal

I could never come here alone
If I could not see.

Would you bring me?
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Liz Nicholas lives in Sheffield and works with words and music. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and songs. As a choir leader and music facilitator, she specialises in work with adults including those with learning difficulties and autism. She walk...


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