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Steve Xerri: a poem

New Year Ritual, Seaford Head

Time is massing in these red-stained cliffs,

riven & leaning, with only a bluff of icy air

to resist the forward tick of a great wedge

of rock freed by the trickle of groundwater

& repeated frosts to fracture at any second

along a new edge & re-write the landscape

where we stand – beneath the overhang, gloved & muffled, at the halfway point, eyes down on the hunt for shepherds' crowns,

those talismanic stones imprinted

with the mark of urchins aeons dead.

We four teetering figures pick a slow path

across the broken surface of the beach,

but we're going home empty-handed –

the only fossils that we've found the outer rinds

of split flints half-emerged like jaws chewing

upwards out of sealaid chalk – & the cliffs

not shifting an inch toward their crisis.

As I look up, a boy is surfing in a wet-suit, the springy hinges of his knees absorbing the shock of the sea's repeated push, borne up on shortlived stairways made of water,

battling for balance, braced on a board

whose leading edge cuts a swash

in the breakers, till the frilly rush

runs out to nothing & he skips

on tiptoe headlong across wet sand,

his steps leaving a signature

for the next wave to erase.

Steve Xerri was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017 and has appeared in numerous print and online magazines including Atrium, Brittle Star, The Clearing, Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Ó Bhéal 5 Words Anthology, The Poetry Shed, Poetry Society Newsletter (Members’ Poems), Raceme, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Stride Magazine. His first pamphlet Mutter/Land was recently published by Oystercatcher Press. You can find him here:

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