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: https://stevexerripoetry.co.uk.