by David Constantine)
There was a path, the familiar path, the one
I've very often not yet ventured on
Around a mountainside, cut level, a sheer
Fall right, a sheer wall left, a ledge a pair
Might amble hand in hand on round the contour
And there you were, not you, nearest the wall
And there was I, not I, nearest the fall
And you were your age but the hair was wrong
I looked like me but many years too young
And on a bend where this path swung out of view
I, less and less myself, halted with the almost you,
And on the brink, for fun or she dared him to,
He balanced his arms dead level and stood there
On his left foot and over the empty air
Raised level his right and so he stood
Lean steady spirit level of my blood
Over emptiness. You laughed, the pair of you
And laughing hand in hand passed out of view.
On hands and knees, the ledge very narrow now,
I shouted after us, your name, my own.
Yours fled my lips to claim you, like a swallow.
Mine fell between my cold hands, like a stone.
• From Elder (Bloodaxe, £9.95). To order a copy for £7.96 with free UK p&p go to guardianbookshop.co.uk or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.