Dark river of itself, curled in the bottom of the creel,
the small myth was an absence, a light taker,
pulsing with malevolence, its oily body slick
with power and potential, head, tail, middle
a single unremitting story told to the end.
None would put his hand in, tempt the malicious eye
or risk springing the trap of its jaws. Even its name,
the mysterious double e, defied us, bled sound.
Neither fish nor animal, we knew elvers would cross
fields and roads to reach the sea. Could he be a god?
Three days they forgot about him in the bucket.
He baked in the sun, skin drying brown,
contemplating the distant blue of the sky,
until one took pity and brought him down to the sea
uncurled his body and with tender fingers
sluiced the water through his gills.
How it must have felt, the prisoner released
into the light, Houdini cheating the burning rope –
the thin triumphant smile, the vengeful gleam,
before he disappeared into the blackness of himself.
Â© Matt Barnard
Picture 10706795, 18th century watercolour painting by Sydney Parkinson, image copyright Mary Evans / Natural History Museum
Matt Barnard is a poet and writer. His collection,Â Anatomy of a Whale, was published in 2018 by The Onslaught Press, and he has won the Poetry Societyâ€™s Hamish Canham Prize and the Ink Tears national short story competition. He also edited the anthologyÂ Poems for the NHS, published by the Onslaught Press. His website isÂ www.mattbarnardwriter.com