I came to these hills with a man I loved
once. He strode ahead, peered over cliff tops;
I hung back and tried to admire the view
from where I stood but it still made me dizzy.
I tried to hide how the incline made me sweat;
I remember heat in my lungs, failing
to keep up, walking ahead when he stopped,
waiting for him to overtake me again.
We walked on top of cracking peaks, trying
to make something in the last autumn sunshine.
I knew that these hills would be my home
and I must let him go, let salt water
eat through porous chalk, bear an eighth sister
in the constant rasping lap of the sea.
I stand there still, one more unwanted woman.
About the poem
This poem appeared in anthology Chalk Poets: New Poetry from the South Downs, produced for the Winchester Poetry Festival.
This poem was one of three completed as part of a commission from the Winchester Poetry Festival to create work inspired by the South Downs and in particular the chalk landscape. In this poem, I developed a memory of walking on the cliffs at Seven Sisters with information from a news story I had read that stated that tidal erosion was creating an eighth "sister", altering the landscape. There was, to me, a correlation between the end of a relationship and the creation of something in the landscape as a result of loss. In developing the work, I moved from direct reportage of my experience and developed the metaphor to mean something broader about personal and environmental conservation.