Earlier this week I took the train to Cromer with a group of friends. We ate chips, flew a dodgy owl kite along the beach, climbed the wooden groyne and a terrifying 160 stairs up the church overlooking the shore. We drank tea at the end of the pier and ate impressively decadent ice-creams, and for the non-vegetarians, crab. Fourteen literature students crammed themselves into a second hand bookshop (I’m not sure if the owner was delighted or irritated), played on the machines in the arcade, and wrote their names in the sand. The kite was binned as a lost cause. The rain held off. It was pretty much a perfect day, one of the stand-out days of my time at university. So here is my first draft at a poem about that day. It’s unedited. It’s ridiculously soppy. It’ll do.
Early summer. The sky is grey-blue,
almost warm when we run helter-skelter
at the sea and shock at the foam’s
quick dart up, the slap and sting of grit
underfoot. We brought a kite:
unravelled it is a bird, underwired,
wings flapping wildly. By the breakwater
we hold it still like a captive thing,
fix it as best we can, take it in turns
to dash ourselves along the beach.
The kite is a native bird of prey,
it circles its captors until it can swoop.
When the wind drops we walk inland
and climb the church tower,
a hundred and sixty-odd steps
growing steeper until it thins to a scrabble
up, and we’re there, hunting camera angles,
cafes, bad jokes, and I slip
back down the tower stairs
before I can undo this moment with my fear –
turning through fibonacci spirals of stone
with my hand on the rope. The kite
also spirals but it is hunting;
the kite spirals when I breathe,
it stays up and swirls with the end in sight,
the catch waiting after loops and loops of air:
like the kite I descend,
coming down in swooping circles
through the day to the bell-room light
at the end, the guide waiting
for our descent, the clouds
mushrooming over the beach – and yet unlike
our kite there’s no landing,
no still half-second of drawn in breath.
The kite also flies but it is hunting;
I also fly on our friendship,
twirling like a kite down the church-tower steps.