The Cliff

David Rowbotham

I remember the old joke,
Which isn’t a joke now,
Of the drunk fallen at right angles into the gutter.
Clinging with his finger-tips
To the edge, as to a cliff’s edge,
He said to the passer-by,
“For Christsake help me up,
I can’t hang on much longer.”
Laughter. Have another grog.
But life, not grog,
Tripped him into that illusion
With the boot of its reality.
You do not imagine cliffs unless there are cliffs.
You do not imagine death unless there is death.
Had I now been the passer-by
I would have helped him up
And turned away in horror at the rescue.
Had I been the drunk
I would have sat down at the edge of the cliff
And stared without a word of thanks;
Into the gutter.