Alice Oswald


this evening those very thin fence posts
struggled up out of the mud again
and immediately the meal began, there was
that flutter of white napkins of waders hurrying in

there was that bent old egret
prodding and poising his knife and fork
and so many mucous mudglands
so much soft throat sucking at my feet

I thought be careful this is deep mud this is
pure mouth it has such lip muscles
such a suction of wet kisses
the slightest contact clingfilms your hands

there goes that dunlin up to her chin in
the simmering dish of mush and
all night that seeping feeding sound
of moistness digesting smallness

and then I creep-slid out over the grey weed,
and all those slimy footpods burst under me
I thought I know whose tongue I’m
treading on and under whose closed eye

every stone every shell every sock
every bone will be crammed in.
to my unease the meal went on and on
there were those queues of reeds

dipping their straws in the dead
there was that sly tide swiftly refilling
I thought really I should have webbed feet
I should have white wings to walk here