On Fingal head – Jeremy Gadd

There is a headland near my home

where jagged black, basalt blocks

face the sea and, for fifty

sheer feet, fall vertically.

Where masochistic waves beat,

with relentless regularity,

against the volcanic rocks.

The spray that is formed

from the shock, like front

row forwards in a final,

floats far inland; coating

the fronds of the pandanus palms,

precariously clinging to the crevices

between the water-worn rocks,

with an encrustation of salt.

It is one of Natures unique places

where the inverted basin of the sky,

horizon, hinterland and sea,

fuse in inspirational majesty.

Although not as predictable

as lunar driven tides,

I frequently wander that hillside,

breathing ozone invigorated air

and soaking in its atmosphere.

Recently I went there for a walk,

But weighed down with suburban blues

and worries of impending rates and dues,

hardly heard the crashing surf

or the cries of the terns and other

birds hang‑gliding over my head.

I stood despondent and depressed,

unresponsive to all about me.

Even oblivious to the way fine

droplets of water from the spray

created hundreds of iridescent

rainbows, far across the bay.

And for the first and only time

contemplated suicide –

until I became aware,

I wasn’t the only one standing there.

In silhouette against the sky

stood a man wearing a suit and tie

and carrying a bulging briefcase.

Another tourist I assumed,

of the type who look and leave

with photos of what they failed

to see ‑ but he was different.

Lowering his briefcase to the grass

he held his hands out before him

as if asking for alms then,

bending his body into the wind,

and trusting the gusts to hold him,

he stepped off the precipice –

and hung suspended in the air!

Astounded I could only stare

as he invited me to join him

in mid‑air, while down below

the foam licked the rocks,

like savage animals licking

their chops in hungry anticipation.

I’m sure it wasn’t my imagination.

Even though I know it sounds

absurd, I swear I heard as

clear as a bird, a single resonating

note, eerily echoing around me.

Although cold enough to cause

a shiver, the sound made

the air quiver, like heat haze,

on a sweltering day; and through

a series of rips in the cosmic fabric,

dozens of beckoning hands appeared,

enticing me to walk on air.

But in the quagmire of my emotions

something started to stir

and, looking into the abyss below,

I understood that the difference

between a rut and a grave is depth,

and I decided not to let go.

I shook my head saying

‘I’m staying…I’m staying’.

The note built to a crescendo

and, like a swaying sea of weed,

the phantom hands beckoned me

with an increasing intensity.

The furious wind nearly succeeded

in sucking me over the cliff.

Then diminuendo – the mystical

man straightened his tie,

nodded goodbye and was gone.

And all this while the sun shone!

Once more I heard the sound

of the surf, and might have thought

nothing had occurred – except

for the briefcase on the ground.

I continue to wonder that wind

exposed hill, and find for all

its noisy waves and quarrelling

terns, an inner serenity there.

And if there is a moral to this

verse, it is take a taxi

and avoid the hearse.

It was only later I happened

to find the forgotten briefcase

Death left behind, and its

List of names, including mine.

© Jeremy Gadd 1992

Published Eidolon (Australia) 1992