Approached by boat, the cliff did not look high,
But when we boys gazed downward from its summit,
We felt uncomfortably near the sky.
We would leap out in turn and, feet first, plummet—
Legs working frantically in search of brakes.
Or, not to be the last left on the heights,
We’d jump in twos and threes and burst the lake’s
Dark surface like a shower of meteorites.

Elsewhere bravado led us to remorse;
There, though, we learned of force and counter-force,
Descending through the many-moted, cold,
Green, sun-shot water with our lifted hair
Till depth slowed us, and buoyancy took hold
And helped us rise back to the light and air.


originally published in The Sewanee Review


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TIMOTHY STEELE's first book of poems, Uncertainties and Rest, appeared in 1979. Sapphics against Anger and Other Poems followed in 1986. (In 1995, these were reprinted in a joint volume, Sapphics and Uncertainties.) More recent collections include The Color Wheel (1994) and Toward the Winter Solstice (2006). Steele has also edited The Poems of J.V. Cunningham (1997) and has published two books of criticism: Missing Measures (1990) and All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing (1999). The first of these examines the revolt against meter in modern poetry and deals with poetics and literary history; the second offers a more practical, nuts-and-bolts discussion of meter and versification. On a personal note, he has been married to his wife Victoria for 31 years, and they divide their time between Los Angeles and New York City. Steele is a professor of English at California State University, Los Angeles, where he also directs the school's Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics.

Photograph courtesy Barian

3 responses to “Pastoral at Rock Point”

  1. […] see also his poem “Pastoral at Rock Point” and his […]

  2. Gloria says:

    A beautiful moment. A perfect description of youth and summer days. Gorgeous.

  3. Simon Smithson says:

    There’s a Stephen King book (maybe The Dark Half?) where he talks about the whole-body cluster-fuck of suddenly bombing into freezing-cold water.

    This is beautifully elegant in its action and movement, Timothy.

    Welcome to TNB!

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