Knife-edge – A Poem By Carol J Forrester

On the very edge,
where you go to curl your toes
into prayers.
Ten tiny bodies bent shoulder and hip
heads tucked in tight
as if curved spines can protect them
from the weight pressing forward,
you, so wind washed of expression,
clinging on.


  1. What a spectacular image! I especially love:
    “where you go to curl your toes
    into prayers”

    I imagine a swimmer, on the edge of the pool, getting ready to dive.

    1. My first thought was of those individuals who go and stand right on the edge of cliffs. It always turns my stomach a bit, the sheer drop that doesn’t seem to bother them. There’s a freedom in not fearing getting that close to an edge though.

  2. ‘you’re so wind washed of expression,
    clinging on.’
    I love that image. What must go through the minds of people who stand so close to the edge? I wouldn’t dare; I get vertigo just thinking about it!

  3. This is incredibly deep and potent. I agree, the image “curl your toes into prayers,” makes for a great metaphor for those who wish to dive into a pool of conviction 🙂

    1. I mulled over the prompt for a bit, worried that my first few ideas were a bit too obvious or close to poems I’d written before. This ended up being the idea I settled with, so it’s lovely it went down so well.

  4. I had to read your quadrille a couple of times, Carol, and each time a different image came into my head. The first time, I saw a diver on the edge of a diving board; the second, someone on a roof; and the third, someone on the edge of a cliff (which could have been because I watched the film ‘Hope Gap’ at the weekend). I love the phrases ‘where you go to curl your toes into prayers’ and wind washed of expression’.

  5. The phrase wind washed expression sticks in my mind. I think when (and if) I EVER get to be with people again, not just my expression will be wind washed!! Love the curled toes though!

  6. Perhaps I’m revealing too much of my genetic heritage, but I don’t care: my mother had exteeeeemely prehensile toes. She could actually pick things up (& I’m not just talking about tissue papers or small crumbs). I swear to god she could probably pick up golf balls.

    You paint these toes beautifully, Carol. Write on, Sister!

  7. Adrenalin junkies feel alive on the edge. There has be another way to get a thrill, but I don’t know of any. Lots of potent imagery that evoked good comments.

  8. I can’t get enough of this. I read it a few times. The words you chose are incredibly beautiful, especially those last two lines. I think they will stick with me 🙂

  9. I can just imagine toes wrapped onto the edge of a diving board.
    I really like the way you describe the toes as
    “Ten tiny bodies bent shoulder and hip
    heads tucked in tight,”
    This is just a wonderful poem.

  10. Lovely tension in this piece – the image of the ten tiny bodies resisting the impulse, the shift in weight – and over it all the scary title of your piece – makes my toes curl.

  11. The first reading is about the sounds, which flow so beautifully, and the second where the more concrete meeting seeps through, and the third where you get the visual. Wonderful.

  12. Funny thing, Carol, but I immediately saw 10 young boys dressed in orange linen, heads shaved, crouched together in prayer at a Buddhist shrine. A marvellous poem.

  13. Your ‘knife-edge’ is thoughtful and unique, shaped equally physically as it is mentally. Loving these ending lines: “from the weight pressing forward,
    you, so wind washed of expression,
    clinging on.”

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