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The chalk cliffs are brilliant white in the sunshine. They gleam in the rain. As fragile and impermanent in their own way as the curtains swaying at the window, they fall sheer and runkled, holding back the flow of time, keeping the great out there at bay, that rowdy and rough crew on the street we’d rather not admit and certainly not give privy to. Sheer they drop to the battering sea. At high tide the waves sweep in, undercutting and hauling away the chalky matrix leaving the water stained milky white with the land’s slow bleeding, tumbling the heaped and flinty cores that mark the land’s slow retreat.

That’s the way of it, wave and wind and time bite and tear and wear away the softer stuff until all that is left are the pieces born of fire. As I walked the shore I could hear the soft sighs of the island letting go its hold and the long tumble slide of land giving way to gravity’s demands. In the end, the elemental stands stark and bare and the softer sediments are borne away until the currents slow and cannot bear their burden and the particles drift down and down once more to be laid again in bed and strata.

I bent and chose a flint that fit my hand. Wondered at the shore walkers, the strandlopers, the beachcombers of so very long ago and how they might have found a curved blade of stone cracked by the sea so the inner glassy heart of it was clear and the edges sharp as only flint can be.

I turned and faced the restless sea and wondered at the man or woman who struck a core with some of the iron heavy stones just down the shore a ways. How they would have seen the sparks and known how flint called for the earth’s blood so together they might make fire.

And I thought of how so many settle for the softer matrix. How so many are satisfied to be borne along by current and flow. How so many drift until they fall away and down and down to make up the beds and strata that will only one day rise again.

And I thought of fire bright and how it springs from the resounding strike of the harder substances.

So don’t think for a moment,
Don’t think I desire a softer side
Don’t think for a moment I need the comfort of easy predictability
That I need a respite from winds and care

Just give me the steel of you
The hard metal gleam of you
The heels snap tapping, catch me if you can walk of you
Just the pure and ever steel of you

Writer, walker, poet, educator. Commercial fisherman, builder, donut maker, organic grower. Boston, U. City, Maine, South Africa, Madrid.

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