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Jean Atkin: a poem

Glymur and the crossing

we take a path through an arctic edge

a way of late lupin leaves starred

with rolling beads of mercury

our way opens next a narrow stair

trod into curves by the dryers of cod

who strung this cave through other years

but stared as we do out through a vast

stone arch, upriver, to where Glymur's

spray grows clouds above the waterfall

down here the river spools long widths

of cold and we only know the crossing-place

by the steel hawser sunk into each bank

I take the wire in my hand and there's only

a suggestion of balance, not what

you'd call support, there are tumbled

stepping stones part-submerged

the water beats and rumbles in my head

I balance and feel the dare come right

midstream pause to duck my body through

below the wire then step onto fifteen feet

of slender log that promises to carry me

I stretch my arms above the river's

deepening light and don't look down

walk the log's road to land, and love

these steps that will not come again

Jean Atkin grew up in Cumbria, with Shetland ancestry. Her most recent publications are The Bicycles of Ice and Salt (IDP) and Fan-peckled (Fair Acre Press), both published in 2021. Her poetry has won competitions, been anthologised and been commissioned and featured on BBC Radio 4. She has been Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival, and was BBC National Poetry Day Poet for Shropshire in 2019. She works as a poet in education and community.

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