The Sea Cliffs

Imposing, somber, motionless they stand,
Like ranks of rugged soldiers primed for war,
They stand where they have always stood before
Through generations—guardians of the land.

In dark array, with militant persistence,
They rise up in their crumbling armor where
They keep watch, with a proud and noble air,
Defiant, mute, and ready for resistance.

They look out as one man beyond the fray,
While at their feet, a restless crowd below
Of frothy waves keeps rushing to and fro
In troubled turbulence and disarray.

Advancing and retreating without aim,
The toiling waves keep moving every day,
Forever turning in their wild dismay,
In endless cycles time can never tame.

With savage force, the crazy waves press hard
Against the land, but find their fury bound,
Held back by these strong cliffs that hold their ground
Like stalwart sentries, always standing guard.

This weathered vanguard, placed to hold the line
Where earth and sea in endless strife contend
Will never yield to force, but will defend
Their sacred post, and keep their charge divine.

They stand from year to year and age to age,
Admired by all the helpless hordes they save
From watery death—a band of watchmen brave,
In aspect strong, majestic, ancient, sage.

The setting sun makes slanting rays shine down
Upon these cliffs through evening mist and spray
To gild them in the waning light of day
With golden glory as a laurel crown.

Above the cliffs, a radiant rainbow spreads
Its brightly colored bands across the sky—
A sign of hope, to which these cliffs say “aye”
By raising high their rocky regal heads!



Morning Bliss

Here time stands still, and stillness is stretched out
As daybreak’s pale blossom in the sky,
Unfolding, spreads its rosy hues throughout
The heavens, where the early sparrows fly.

Held captive in unhurried silent rapture,
I hear birds waking in the brake nearby
And cattle lowing in the unmown pasture,
Where cowbells clang and morning breezes sigh.

Fresh zephyrs blowing stroke the waving grass
With soft caresses, honeysuckle scented,
Then brush my forelocks as they gently pass
Across the porch, where I sit so contented.

Enchanted by the quiet of this place
And by the smell of coffee rising up
In steamy wisps that curl before my face
Each time I take a sip from this warm cup,

I sit here, rocking, breathing silent praise,
So thankful for life’s gifts and life itself!
Thus, filled with thoughts of countless blesséd days,
I rest, like some old book upon a shelf.



Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.

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13 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    When I think of cliffs, I think of the White Cliffs of Dover, even though you may have had other and all cliffs in mind. In any case, “The Sea Cliffs” is a grand and enchanting picture that sticks in the mind with beautiful imagery. Similarly, “Morning Bliss” took me back in my mind to when I was a young boy on a farm in South Dakota and enjoyed bucolic mornings with the cattle lowing and meadowlarks waking. There was the fresh smell of coffee, although I had to drink milk. Thank you for the sensory feelings once again.

    • Martin Rizley

      I am so glad you were able to connect some of your own memories with the bucolic imagery in “Morning Bliss”. That sort of connection is often what gives poetry its emotional impact- the way certain sensory images awaken the memory.

      In “The Sea Cliff”, I was thinking of some very impressive cliffs that I saw in a photograph; they were quite dark– unlike the white cliffs of Dover in that redirect– but breathtakingly beautiful.
      Thanks for your feedback, Roy.

  2. Cheryl Corey

    “Morning Bliss” encourages us to appreciate quiet moments of peace and beauty. Another fabulous painting accompanies your “Sea Cliffs” poem.

    • Martin Rizley

      Yes, I love the painting Evan picked out to go with my poem!
      I appreciate your reflections, Cheryl.

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    “The Sea Cliffs” is very impressive in several ways, but especially for the way the martial imagery is carried through: “ranks of rugged soldiers primed for war”; “crumbling armor”; “advancing and retreating”; “stalwart sentries” ; “weathered vanguard”, etc. “Morning Bliss” is beautiful, as well. Though yours isn’t a rondel, it reminds me quite a bit of E.B. White’s (unfortunately hard to find) gem, “Rondel for a September Day”, which begins:
    “Of the white cloud’s summer fleece,
    Of the sudden partridge drumming,
    Of the cowbell’s errant peace
    In a world of cricket strumming –”

    Thank you for the beautiful poems.

    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Cynthia, for your appreciative words. I am going to try to track down the poem by E.B. White you mention– I’m sure I would enjoy reading it.

  4. Paul Freeman

    The extended, militaristic metaphor works well in ‘The Sea Cliffs’ and brings out some fine imagery.

    ‘Morning Bliss’ I thought changed in tone to become rather melancholy by the last line. I thought the imaginative first line of this poem was exceptional.

    Thanks for the reads.

    • Martin Rizley

      Thanks, Paul, for your response. I was interested by your take on the last line and how you felt a tone of melancholy crept into the poem at that point. I can see how the reference to being like an “old book on a shelf” might seem depressing, but what I was really trying to convey by that metaphor were the ideas of restfulness and fullness (an old book is full of pages and chapters, which are like the stages of a life stored in the memory. Perhaps there is a twinge of wistfulness in the word “old,” but I trust that it doesn’t diminish the overall mood of quiet rapture and contentment.

      • Paul Freeman

        I think it’s the phrase ‘on the shelf’. In the West it has connotations with spinsterhood which used to be a major stigma for a woman.

        Here in the Arab world, it’s a bit different. ‘On the shelf’ refers to a first wife’s role being limited when the husband decides to get a second / younger wife.

        I understand where your coming from in the last line. Perhaps ‘tome’ instead of ‘book’ would convey a closer meaning.

        I’m still enamoured with the first line, though!

  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    “The Sea Cliffs” reminds me of the beginning of T.S. Eliot’s wonderful poem “Sweeney Erect,” where the first quatrain also paints a picture of waves crashing violently against a rocky shore:

    Paint me a cavernous waste shore
    Cast in the unstilled Cyclades,
    Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks
    Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.

    Rough seas hitting a stony coastline have always been a stimulus to poetic imagination — there’s something about the savage clash of water and rocks that fascinates both the eyes and the mind.

  6. Margaret Coats

    Martin, you found a clever way of designating victory in the “endless strife” of cliffs and waves! Both poems show creative development of a theme unsuspected during the earlier, more heavily descriptive, portion. In “Morning Bliss,” it’s all poetic diction at first, then moves into the porch scene that’s almost colloquial, and offers a surprise ending with the unexpected but appropriate simile. Nice work.


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