Once upon a North Sea cliff,
fragile skeletons chalky white
and ghosts of spiralling ammonites
exploded by the waterside.

Teased by waves and torn by tides,
the behemoth spilled its insides:
with salty gush and rocky rumble,
the towering cliffs began to tumble.

Strewn among the shells and pebbles,
bleached by sun and washed by spray,
were fossils and relics of prehistoric days
when herds of mammoths freely grazed.

Kim M. Russell, 30th October 2018

Glacial Cliffs and beach at West Runton beach Norfolk
Image credit: Alamy

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: Stock Phrases, also linked to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Tuesday Platform

Lillian is our host this Tuesday and she has started with ‘Once upon a time’, a phrase, she reminds us, that begins many a tale. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase has been used in some form since 1380 in storytelling in the English language.

She says that this phrase, to some, is a cliché, an overused line, while others believe it’s a line filled with possibilities.

Lillian would like us to use a bit of poetic licence with that phrase and begin every poem with: Once upon a _________  and we must fill in the blank with any word except ‘time’.

Poems can be any form and on any topic, such as a love poem or something eerie for Halloween – whatever our imaginations come up with! My ‘once upon a…’ led me back to the Norfolk mammoths.

36 thoughts on “Once

  1. Fantastic imagery, Kim! I loved the first line giving it the depth of ancient history and myths — it is all so vivid and colossal — “ghosts of spiralling ammonites”, “behemoth spilling its insides”, “bleached by sun and washed by spray,/were fossils and relics of prehistoric days” — phrases like these make for an exciting read. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anmol. I’m fascinated by the mammoths that were found along our coast. I also love finding fossils and amber on the beach. I must go again soon. 🙂


  2. you first line had me transported to a prehistoric era, more amazing is how it shows the struggles against the ravages of the elements. “the towering cliffs began to tumble” love this line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Gina. We’ve lost whole villages along our coast, some of which are under the sea, and houses are still dropping of cliffs. But what has been revealed by coastal erosion is amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Teased by waves and torn by tides” Loving the sound and imagery of this line. You’ve taken me to this magical place…and to a vision of the behemoth and the tumbling towering cliffs. Such prehistorical significance in this place. I’d like to visit there some day. Are you far from Southampton? I believe our cruises in 2020 will take us there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lill, By 2020 I might have moved from Norfolk as I really want to be nearer to Ellen and Lucas, and my sister (the one who still talks to me) is moving to the Isle of Wight. At the moment, I’m a long way from Southampton but Hampshire and West Sussex, where I’d like to be, are not too far from there. But I think you would love it in Norfolk. Norwich itself is full of history and is a beautiful city.


  4. This is delicious to read and on the tongue –
    I love massive, towering ocean/sea-side cliffs — for the “abuse” they have endured, how long they have stood, and yet, bit by bit, offer up so much by way of treasures!

    You’ve totally captured the sea here, and the weight force and beauty of the cliffs. And wow, what finds – mammoths! That is too cool. 🙂

    I’d start pulling lines, but I’m just too busy roiling along with the sounds in this poem. It’s really sensuous and sinuous Kim. Very impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the mammoth skeletons is on display at Norwich Castle, a wonderful place to visit. The last time I was there was for an award ceremony so the museum part was locked up. But we did have a harpist and a jester! I love the North Norfolk coast for its wildness, beauty and history. We have so many ghost stories too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it’s a most excellent coast line – and I’m sure it offers incredible inspiration! wow – that’s amazing, to be able to visit in the museum and see the remains! LOL@harpist and jester – well, that is way cool for an awards ceremony, quite the contrasting natures of this! Gee, even these two elements would make for interesting writing! LOL 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You really rocked the socks off the prompt here; a nice tight poem, wherein the rhyme scheme is not obtrusive. a classical Victorian feel to it, an ode to mammoths and behemoths everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We don’t actually have many cliffs left along the North Norfolk coast due to erosion. There are so many lost bits of it under the sea which were actually attached to other parts of the world, which is probably how the mammoths moved to and from Britain. It’s amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

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