Labels of the Otter by Jacqui Rowe

Finding him indistinguishable

from the current

they named him water.


Adrift, a raft of kits and dogs,

a family, bevy, lodge

a romp.


Death of otters

wears his name and Mr Spicer’s

on a luggage tag.


The myth of lutra lutra

reconstructed from its kill

its waste its bones.


What Mr Spicer could not use

in 1844, without the skin or skill

to remake it.


Otr in his form of choice gorged on fish

till Loki did for him and filled his skin

with gold instead.


All around your head the rainclouds

like an umbrella, memento of your one

encounter with an otter.


Seven black otters and the dratsie king

grant you a wish to make them free.

Chuck His Majesty

under the chin,

snitch his skin

and disappear.

Never fear

the black black deeps.


St Cuthbert in the brine

waist deep endures because they come

to warm him with their breath

dry him with their fur.


Fish or flesh? What rabbit slips through streams?

Otter and chips is safe on Fridays

for your soul.


Full of play and gladness,

courage in duress,

four-footed, noblest soul


Evacuated from Warwickshire banks

with a  label to bring him safe home

become, preserved a century,

a little model of a gas mask.

An otter’s skull, from Spicer’s taxidermy workshop in 19th century Warwick, was an exhibit in ’60 Years of Collecting’ at the Market Hall Museum, Warwick.


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