The Cliff – Chloe Morris

I was ten-years-old
When the pain started blossoming
In my mother’s back,
The resultant weeds spreading,
Digging their roots into nerve endings
And despite the lack of sun,
Refusing to die,
As they cropped up
In her leg,
In her shoulders,
In her sense of gravity,
In the veins of her spirit.
I was ten-years-old
When my mother told me the story
For the first time.
Every time I picture that day
I see silver tears
Sprouting about her hazel eyes,
Though I doubt my mother really cried.
If anything cried it was the part of
My soul that crumbled into
Soil and fell away.
She was twenty-years-old,
And on this deceivingly lovely day,
The sun was beaming
And the sky was the color
Of my father’s eyes
And the birds were chattering
Songs that no one could understand.
Through the woods she and her sister
And her sister’s friends hiked,
Up, up, up until the lake appeared
And the cliff tore out of the ground
And dangled above the earth.
She was alive, she was
A part of a universe that demanded to be seen.
She left the others in the pool of teal,
Wound her way through thickets
And around tree trunks and
Out onto the precipice of extraordinary,
Of heaven’s backyard,
Where she breathed in the Arkansas heat
And basked in Mother Nature’s beauty.
She was free in the light of that afternoon,
That was until she was overwhelmed by the shadow
That enveloped hers,
A boulder rising to overtake her.
She turned to find a man,
A friend of a friend of her sister’s,
His face leering,
His name something like Asher or Garrett or Logan,
Not that those are bad names
But a name that resonated with power.
My mother was twenty-years-old
When a man blocked her path to freedom
And said, “If you don’t jump,
I am going to throw you
From the cliff.”
As if this was endearing,
As if this was flirting,
As if this would somehow
Pull my mother’s heart across the space between them
And into his awaiting claw.
His hand reached for my mother’s arm.
My mother was bravery; she was fierce.
Her fate spiraled in that moment,
Wavering between two choices,
But to her the choice was clear:
Snatching back the power he had snagged,
She took a few steps, surrendered her vision,
And jumped
Into the abyss below.
She was falling like a meteor
That was coming in too hot,
And from down below
She heard buzzes,
No, not buzzes, screams
Warning her to keep
Her legs straight down.
But fear, fear imposed his might
On my mother’s fortitude
And as the water met her skin,
Her legs pulled up, and her tailbone met brick.
It was twenty-two years later
When the pain from the jump returned.
In the following eight years
My mother goes
From doctor to doctor,
Procedure to procedure,
Out of state, across the expanse
Of uncertainty. Across the planes
Of what is fair,
Glaring into the face of her pain
And refusing to blink.
My mother is pure warrior.
I am twenty-two years old,
But sometimes I still dream
Of traveling back to that instant
When my mother stared down stone.
There I’d be, her future daughter’s ghost.
Entangled in the bushes
I would reach for a branch
With which to pitch at his head.
He would collapse long enough
For my mother to escape,
To retake her future,
To change the stars.
But this is just a dream.
I cannot haunt the past,
And my mother, how could she move
A boulder?

Chloe Morris is from a small town in eastern Arkansas. She currently lives in Indianapolis, where she is earning a MFA in Creative Writing-fiction at Butler University. She earned a Bachelor’s in English with a Creative Writing Specialization at Southern Methodist University. Her poetry has been published in Turnpike Magazine. Some of her passions include fantasy/science fiction, mythology, medieval studies, and songwriting.