‘The Poacher’ was published in Under The Radar Summer Issue 21 (2018) by Nine Arches Press. The poem was written during my residency with Place, Space and Urban Design (SPUD) at NT Mottisfont in Hampshire and inspired by Neil Swift’s anecdotes about his work as Mottisfont’s River Keeper. His role includes maintaining and managing four ‘beats’ of prime chalk stream fly fishing on the River Test.
Even if you haven’t seen the River Keeper,
I can assure you he’s seen you, half-vaulting
half-falling over the estate fence, has tracked
the rip and drag of your bike through long grass,
the detonations of your foot-falls rippling down-
stream; has scented your last-orders breath
and noted tell-tale patches of trampled fringe.
It will seem to you that casting bait conjures
the River Keeper from ranunculus and sedge,
looming over your shoulder; and as you plunge
and slip along the bank, head down gasping
for breath, you will wonder if he watched you
shirtless with your mate’s girlfriend last Saturday
along the river’s edge – and what happened next.