Tidal Drag is a new poem by George Szirtes, commissioned by First Light Festival to provide inspiration to artists and school students as part of 2023’s Noon to Moon Project.

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Tidal Drag



Neap tide and spring tide

and the moon on its journey

as the earth revolves

around the sun. Swell

and ebb as pebbles and shale

are dragged or thrown off.

Where do the ships go?

What tide is driving the sky

and the endless dark

on to the bright rocks?



The enormous dark

fills with a storehouse of stars,

all that space rubbish

dragging everything

in its wake. Life moves among

a crowd of planets.

We flick the ashes

of the green earth into space.

Everything must glow

in a fierce display.



Magnificent shows

of tidal power moving

on its own axis.

The sea is silent

yet roaring. The beach scrapes back

its tight hair of weed

and marram grass. Dunes

slick into waves. You are born

here yet borne elsewhere,

swept under the moon.



Planets drag planets

across a night sky full of

glass and eyes half shut.

The mechanism

creaks and vanishes. We sit

under the spot lights

of a universe

starring no particular

star, that is endless,

daunting, gluttonous.



You see the cars parked

along the shoreline. Hot tea.

Chips. We are waiting

for the tide to clip

rocks and wooden posts. Slap,

goes the first warning.

The moon is hidden

behind clouds but will emerge

like a clear statement

of wonder and grace



Then a new planet

swims into your ken. Where did

it spring from? Whose hand

fashioned it? You are

Keats meeting Chapman. The hand

waves across aeons.

Look mum, no hands, cries

the newborn. I made myself!

The gods of the sea


wave back, tide to tide.


George Szirtes, 2023