The Last Lady Eel­ Catcher – Alex Toms

George Crabbe Memorial Competition 2015 – Second Prize
Adjudicator: Robert Seatter

After Liz Berry

I’m the last lady eel catcher,
know the waterways
as well as the veins in my wrist,

spend my days
going up and down the river
like a bead sliding on a string.

At sunset I set
my traps of woven willow,
return before dawn’s grey yawn

has swallowed the last stars.
I leave the empty ones where they are,
tip the full ones into my tank,

watch liquid silver
flash past my fingers.
When the sun

slices open the sky,
I punt to the village
to sell my squirming catch.

Once a year I put on my best clothes,
kneel before the parchment­-skinned Bishop
to pay my slippery tax.

He peers into the creel,
sees the writhing silken bodies,
gasps as though he’s seen a miracle.

Copyright © 2015 Alex Toms

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