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Norfolk Sonnets


This is the place where the sea eats the land
Where the friable cliffs crumble and slide
Where pill-boxes topple onto the sand
And the relentless North Sea waves collide.

This is the place where the church creeps closer
Where all the cliff-top caravans retreat
Where the village pub is facing closure
And the wind and the sea constantly beat.

So, walk along the cliff path while you can
For everything is impermanent here;
Appreciate the changing light and scan
The summer martins as they tilt and veer

For soon - upon some night of storm and squall
The deep sea will be coming for us all.


On a low hill above the River Bure
They built their grand mansion of many wings -
A symbol of their power and greatness there:
Opulent, ornate and fit for kings.

But like all dynasties, the Pastons fell
And, in time, their great hall crumbled too:
So only cold busts in the church now tell
How this old family ruled and how through

The centuries they flexed their might - and thanks
To writs, contested wills and artistry
They rose up quickly through the Norfolk ranks -
But might have vanished into history

But for a chest of letters that were found
Among the debris on the Bure-side ground.


Once you were a busy medieval port
With ships unloading at your crowded quay
From Holland and London and Hull; but
Then you lost all your access to the sea.

The Glaven silted, the marshes were reclaimed
And slowly you slipped into history;
Your narrow streeets and cottages became
A birder's haven: cute and touristy.

Now there are only echoes of the past:
Flemish gables, a church with sailor's graves
And every hawser and anchor and mast
Have gone: and even the sound of the waves

Is diminished now: ghostly, muted, small
Like the lonely curlew's echoing call.

 Winter at Walcott

People come out here to be by the sea:
Park up beside the long concrete sea wall
Or sit in the cafe talking quietly -
Watch gulls dive for chips or the waves fall.

Soon the incoming tide shrinks the beach.
Clouds build and disperse and reform
And behind the beach the chalets crouch
Embattled here - waiting for the next storm.

Then the light fades and the first cold drop
Of rain falls into the waves - which now surge.
Inside the cafe the windows steam up
And in the half-light the sea and sky merge.

Then, somewhat earlier than was planned
Engines start and cars head back inland.





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