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'On A Cliff With You'

Ben Arent

by David Allan Cates

If we were both
hanging from a cliff
by one hand
you'd tell me how scary
it is to be hanging
from a cliff
by one hand
and we'd talk about
how it makes you feel
and how your hand
and how the sun
is setting.

I'd be wondering
how long
I could endure
and we'd talk
about how long you thought
you could endure
and then
you'd tell me everything
you learned
about enduring
as long as you had.

I'd listen and watch
night fall
and a light go on
as you suddenly noticed
me hanging
and praised my heroic endurance
and said how ashamed
you felt
to have talked
so long
when I was suffering too.

I'd say that's okay
and you'd say it isn't
and I'd say okay
it wasn't
and you'd laugh
and we'd both be silent
in the dark.

just when I'd think
my hand could not hold on
another moment
you'd find a ledge
yes, you
to put your feet on
and I don't know how
but you'd help me find it too.

We'd let ourselves down
and sit safely
on the ledge
under the stars
dangling our legs.

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David Allan Cates is the author of five novels, Hunger In America, a New York Times Notable Book, X Out Of Wonderland and Freeman Walker, both Montana Book Award Honor Books, and in 2012, Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home, winner of a Gold Medal for Best Fiction in the 2013 Independent Book Publishers Book Awards.

His fifth novel, Tom Connor’s Gift, was released by Bangtail Press in October of 2014, and also won a Gold Medal for Best Fiction in the 2015 independent Book Publishers Book awards.

Cates is the winner of the 2010 Montana Arts Council’s Innovative Artist Award and his short story, “Rubber Boy,” (Glimmer Train 70) is a distinguished story in the 2010 Best American Short Stories. His stories and poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines, and his travel articles in Outside Magazine and the New York Times Sophisticated Traveler.

"On A Cliff With You" was published in Cates' 2016 collection The Mysterious Location of Krygzstan.

Chérie Newman is an arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. Her weekly literary program, The Write Question, is broadcast on several public radio stations, and available online at PRX.org and MTPR.org.