The following piece was awarded First Prize in the OU Students Association The Outside World Writing Competition for Freshers Fortnight 2021 (20 Sept – 3 Oct). The author, Kayleigh, is living in Hampshire and is studying People, work and society Access module (Y032).
When last I stood atop that high cliff, gazing out to sea,
where late afternoon sun glimmered on the water,
and the last of the ice-cream clouds passed overhead,
I closed my eyes
to the sailboats she loved to watch,
to the sweet peach hue of the sky above,
to the crash of the waves, and the laughter of seabirds,
and there you were.
You, beneath blankets you did not ask for and soon would not need,
enduring the distant static of a radio you would rather they switched off.
Eyes, ocean-blue, full and vacant, fixed to the ceiling,
footsteps in the corridor, the same cadence of your stubborn, beating heart.
And bright, dusty sunbeams shining through your small room; the pathways of angels beginning their journey.
And there I am; wind tangling my hair, the taste of salt and hope inside my mouth,
the sweet, shrill laughter of little ones, standing on the edge of the world you gave to me.
There I am, sand rough between my toes and teeth, eyes stinging, knowing it is coming.
There I am, fingers clutching the small, soft hand of your legacy,
with bold hope that he will carry even half the weight of memories like these.
And sometimes I quite inexplicably ask the sky:
How can it be that out here, with us, there will be more tomorrows,
when never again will you, in there, so much as turn your face to a window?
What I hope to be true
is that the next time I stand atop this high cliff, gazing out to sea,
in weeks or months, once the wild has come and taken you to peace,
at last you will remember,
and be caught not inside of chaos, lost beneath blankets at sundown, withered and small,
here to us,
speaking each of our names,
breathing sea air beside her, proud and whole.
I open my eyes.