Literary Norfolk Header and Logo

Happisburgh Haiku


Inspired by the photographs of Stephen Hyatt-Cross.

 (Click on haiku to see photograph.)


Caravans retreat;
Pill-boxes fall; churches creep
Closer to the edge.

This is the edge of
The world: the rank, brambled road
To eternity.
You are battered and
Broken: dug-in: awaiting
The final onslaught.

Today the sea is
Lulling the land: lying low;
Lapping; regrouping.
Sooner or later
I will force you back. I will
Reclaim. I will win.

The house demolished;
The rubble removed; the line
Unrequired now.

You are the last of
The line: solitary groynes:
Awry; worn; beaten.

This is the battle
Zone - where the sea launches its
Attack on the land.
Sing: 'Oh, hear us when
We cry to Thee, for those in
Peril on the sea.'

Grab a tea or a
Coffee from this cafe at
The edge of the world.
Here be dragons; a
Bestiary carved out of
The cliff by the sea

These are the remnants
Of war: rock; twisted metal;
Shattered revetments.

You are drinking in
The last chance saloon - so get
In another round.

You are soft; you are
Sea-bitten; you are waiting;
You are Happisburgh.
Dug-in - the land is
On the defensive; fighting
A rear guard action.

This is the line in
The sand where the bombardment
Will be heaviest.

Even today you
Can hear the sea's voice calling:
Quietly, softly.

For two hundred years
You have protected ships from
The Haisborough Sands.
For centuries you
Have stood here on this hill - but
For how much longer?

You were scarificed -
A ritual offering
Left out for the sea.

At night, you can feel
The sea's weight against the cliff:
Crashing and clawing.

Time is measured in
Distance here: as one proceeds
The other recedes.
This is the cumbling
Edge - where the land surrenders
Itself to the sea.

It is the height of
Summer; the sea has declared
A brief armistice.
The land is fragile;
The land is failing; and your
Time is running out.

Life is unfenced here:
Peripheral; sea-bitten
And impermanent.
The sea never tires -
It's restless and relentless
And unforgiving.

Dismantle me now
For the sea is coming - yes -
The sea is coming.
I am patient and
I am inevitable:
Your rocks are futile

You are protected
By the sea-wall - but the
Sea knows you are there.
The sea asks questions
Of the land; but the land is
Silent, evasive.

Stop and listen - for
Today the sea is singing
A lilting love song.
You cannot defend
Us from the old enemy -
From the raging sea.

Over these fields come
The twittering linnets and
Finches and wheatears.
This is where the land
Meets the sea - where the past and
The future converge.

Out there under the
Waves - the lost villages of
Whimpwell and Eccles.
The land was further
Out than you thought - yes- and not
Waving but drowning.

I am alpha and
Omega; I am ageless;
Timeless; eternal.
Will these drowned sailors
Suffer a sea-change into
Something rich and strange?

Today the mermaids
Are singing - enticing ships
Onto the sand-banks.
This is the end of
The four-square world: the end of
All firm foundations

No messages; no
Notifications; no calls;
No contacts; just this.
Time is not on your
Side; it's on the side of the
Susurrating sea.

The solid world is
Just illusion; everything
Is impermanent.
You have twenty or
Thirty years left now- before
Last orders are called.

You ran aground on
Hammond's Knoll - then broke free and
Sank in deep water.
You toppled from the
Cliff and now you live in a
Topsy-turvy world.

Summer is ending
And the sea is turning grey
And sullen again.
The sea is stalking
Us. Stealthily, patiently
It's tracking us down.

Under the lighthouse
Sand martins skim past; skylarks
Rise up; the sea sings.
Today the flotsam
And jetsam flamingo is
Ready to fly off.

This is the road to
Nowhere: sea-limited; short;
Narrow; terminal.
The land drops away
In front of you. You move back
One van at a time.

The king James Bible
Says; 'and the sea gave up the
Dead which were in it.'
These are the sea's toys:
Uncared for; broken; battered;
Soon to be thrown out.

Here is the marram
Grass - the fragile line between
The land and the sea.
This is the end of
The road; from here there is only Cliff and beach and sea.

October. Clouds shroud
The cliff and into the sea
A constant rain falls.
The sea is a rough
Lover: touching and groping
And penetrating.

In the old days, a
North-westerly like this would
Have roused the wreckers.
In summer the sea
Kisses the land; in winter
It takes it by force.

Under an iron
Grey sky - the iron grey waves
Approach and encroach.
Today the waves are
Horses: hooves cascading; nostrils
Flaring; white manes flying.

All metaphors fail;
All conceits expire - for the
Sea is just the sea.
The weather has set
In: a sullen; unflinching
North-westerly gale

Your season has come
To an end; you must retreat
Now; the sea has won.
Dusty, August heat;
Dog-rose stillness - where only
The goldfinches move.

You are under siege:
Sea-bitten and sea-beaten:
Wind-blasted; shredded.
Out there - the sandbanks:
More teacherous than rocks: wait:
Dissembling; shifting.

Once you held the line
But the sea was too strong and
Now you are driftwood.
In the sea's cauldron
Everything melts: timber, rock -
Even solid steel.

Everything here is
Impermanent - everything
Here is eternal.
Eat cake, drink coffee
And relax - for tomorrow
The sea is coming.

This is the present -
The narrow track between the
Past and the future.
Time for the defrag;
Time for the reboot; time for
The anti-virus.

This barley crop is
Unharvested; this barley
Crop will drop, will drop..
Above the sea's teeth -
This joyous, temporary
Cliff-top flowering.

Your universe is
Getting smaller; soon it will
Start to recollapse.

We are luminous
Beings - lit up against the
Turgid sea of death.

The climate's warming;
The sea level is rising;
You time's running out.
For centuries, your
Light has steered mariners through
The Haisborough Gat.

Remember when we
Wheeled the children down the old
Ramp in their push-chairs?
You are dispossessed:
Refugees fleeing from a
Homeland by the sea.

This is the end of
The campaign - the battlefield
After the battle.
Undefeated, you
Are pulling back from the edge:
Regrouping inland.

The awkward retreat
Has begun - the nose-to-tail
Fences and sheds and
Hard-standings are all that is -
Left. The sea has won.

Today you've been towed
Away inland. Now only
These remnants remain.
You are retreating
Now: pushing, jostling, tilting:
The sea at your back.

The wood has splintered;
The metal has corroded;
And now it's your turn.

You are out of place:
Glinting Norwegian granite
On a Norfolk beach.

You cannot be towed
Inland - only dismantled:
One flint at a time.
Time is elapsing;
Earth is crumbling; sea is coming.

This long parish; long
Defended; long attacked; long
Settled. Not long left.
For many years you
Have fought the sea - but now you
Are scarred and shell-shocked.

When the tide is out
Your defences are exposed:
Depleted; threadbare.
Today the sea is
A sculptor - standing back to
Admire its own work.

This is only the
Sea's maquette - a model for
Its magnum opus.
It is December
And you are nearing the end;
More storms are coming

The steps are long gone
And now you are stranded here
Yards from the cliff edge.
Everything is ground
Down in the sea's mortar: wood,
Metal and granite.

Your landlord is the
Sea; and soon you'll be issued
Your notice to quit.
This war is endless;
This war will never be won;
This war is the sea.

Thirty years? Forty
Years? Fifty years? Yours is this
Brief distance in time.
Where does the sea end
And the sky begin? And are
Those grey hills real?

Cluster of clanking
Canisters: waiting to be
Lifted and shifted.
All that remains now
Is paraphenalia:
Boxes, steps and pipes.

No tornado; no
Hurricane; no tsunami;
Just encroaching sea.
Above these crumbling
Cliffs - your iconic, flashing
Red and white presence.

The channel has changed:
The TV has been unplugged:
Service has ended.
Water is at work
Here: rainwater, groundwater and
Ceaseless seawater.
You are the last of
The line - facing the North Sea:
Neigbourless, alone.
Your predicament
Predicted; your destiny
Revamp the ramp; move
Back. Revamp the ramp; move back.
Revamp the ramp; move....
This is a quick fix: makeshift
And temporary.
If you cup your hand
To your ear - you can almost
Hear the sea laughing.

Under the towering
Cloud - you grow indistinct: your
Light struggling through mist.
Can you unpick the
Strands here: of impermanence
And eternity?




Supported by Norfolk County Council logoSupported by Norfolk Tourism


Home | About Us | Advertise on Literary Norfolk

©Cameron Self 2007-2014                                                                                                                Hosted by UK Web.Solutions Direct