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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