BEtween the lines: sunset at avon gorge
Sunset at Avon Gorge
by Caitlin Thomson
sunset at avon gorge
fuchsia bleeds within baby blue
and i’m sitting on the world’s edge
thinking of you.
My legs dangle, ankles swinging
over the gorge.
a wind whips at my hair
and throws strands up
spinning, into thin air.
i lean forward, buoyed
by an expanse of space
open fingers fumbling,
i try to grasp you, intangible,
or at least a trace.
i lie back,
the grass cradling my neck
tickles, and i swear i feel your breath
on skin sighing, a soft exhale.
i gaze at the glassy black sky
slick with silence,
above winding rivers and city lights.
i reach up and grasp a fistful of stars
and it was like
holding your hand all over again.
kicking my heels, i walk home
to an empty room, a little colder.
when Loneliness comes creeping
and tenderly taps me on the shoulder.
Analysis by Eloisa Griffiths
In light of our recent times of isolation, the bittersweet taste Caitlin’s lovely, longing poem leaves only deepens. Beginning soaked in the saccharine light of a pink-stained sunset tinged with more mournful baby blue, we are greetgreeted with the simultaneous sense of euphoria and fond sadness that so often comes hand in hand with newborn like/lust/love(?). This is a beautifully tactile poem; you can really feel the tickle of stars in your palm, the grassy whispers on your neck, and the buoyancy of the air in the goosebumps on your skin as you read. Here, Caitlin’s poem becomes an invocation, as she summons the shivery presence of a person/muse/ghost she wishes – and we as the immersed reader wish – was there. Once again the poem seems to merge oppositions in its simultaneous sense of feeling small in the face of the landscape and presiding above it, encompassing it. You can feel the depths of the gorge in the poetic voice’s suspended legs, in the ‘expanse of space’ she reaches into, in the impossible bigness of the ‘world’s edge’. However, in the second stanza the voice seems master of the heights of the gorge, cradled and held aloft by the landscape, like an eyrie, looking down on the now- dwarfed ‘winding rivers and city lights’. Perhaps here the landscape functions as a mirror of the voice’s feelings; at once, they make her feel small, helpless, at the mercy of the gorge’s height and winds and scope, but sometimes they swell up inside her, too big to contain, imbuing her with size and strength and power enough to stand atop the landscape, presiding over the spread below, afloat. Caitlin’s use of ‘glassy’ to describe the sky also positions it as a mirror, employing a lovely image of the the light-speckled cityscape being twinned with the stars above, imperfect doubles of each other; the sense of two twinned presences in the poem is apparent once again – the city and the stars, one earthly and one ethereal, the dreamer and the dreamed. This poem feels like the perfectly captured feeling of summer’s heat slipping into evening’s cool chill, particularly with the last stanza’s turn into fully-fledged melancholy. We transition from a wide open space etched with depth and colour and stars to an enclosed room, filled up with emptiness and a cold that comes creeping in like the slow but then suddenly swift blue light of evening and night. We are left with a final image of a personified ‘Loneliness’ – a clever paradox transforming the feeling of utter absence into a chilling, but also ‘tender’, presence. It is the tender familiarity of this loneliness which leaves the poem on a final note of happy-sad nostalgia and longing; from where we all sit cooped up in our respective homes now, in literal government-prescribed isolation, the poem almost reads like a final year’s love letter to Bristol itself, and the summer we might have had. Oh, to be cradled in the grass of the downs, clutching a handful of Bristol’s stars.