This is a group of poems is taken from my cycle about some of the people, seen from a child's perspective, living in the lightly disguised village I call Waterslain - that's an old Norfolk word meaning 'flooded'. 'Diz', Sheila Disney, had a moustache and she used to catch her breakfast with her feet. She taught me to swim and she scared me stupid. 'Shuck' is a huge black dog - a Norfolk relative as it were of the Lancashire Skriker and the Warwickshire Hooter and the mythical Norse wolf, Fenrir. In 'Beachcomber' Aegir is the Norse god of the oceans, the Norse Poseidon.

Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber


Easterlies have sandpapered her larynx.

Webbed fingers, webbed feet:
last child of a seal family.

There is a blue flame at her hearth, blue
mussels at her board.
Her bath is the gannet’s bath.

Rents one windy room at the top of a ladder.
Reeks of kelp.

‘Suffer the little children,’ she barks
and the children – all the little ones –
are enchanted.

She has stroked through the indigo of
Dead Man’s Pool
and returned with secrets.

They slip their moorings. They
tack towards her glittering eyes.


From saucer pulks
where pale light lingers longest
we made his eyes.

In this seedbed only think:
Dead Hands wave, Things worm,
marsh lights flicker.

We made his blood from arteries
obsidian in the moonlight,
his hair from shaggy sea-purslane.
His chains are chains of marsh mist.

Skriker, Hooter, Fenrir:
these are his blood-brothers.
We gave him the howl of wind
carried from Siberia.

And witnesses?
with terror or with damp black
earth, one way or another
he stops every mouth.


Faithful as a wordfisher,
there he goes, old magpie of the foreshore!
Face chafed and chapped like driftwood.

Parcelled shapeless against
winds straight off the icecap
but look! agile even so, jumpy as a tick,
quick in his pickings.

Scoofs along the tideline scurf,
his oily sack full of consonants:
hunks of wax,
and seacoal, rubber ballast, cork,
sodden gleanings.

And swinging in that shoe-bag hitched
to his broad belt?
Ah! In there, sunlight and amber moonlight,
emerald and zinc and shell-pink,
Aegir’s vowels.

from Selected Poems (Enitharmon, 2001), copyright © Kevin Crossley-Holland 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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