Friday, 10 July 2009

The Otter

The Otter

When you plunged
The light of Tuscany wavered
And swung through the pool
From top to bottom.

I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,
Your fine swimmer's back and shoulders
surfacing and surfacing again
This year and every year since.

I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air
Thinned and disappointed.

Thank God for the slow loadening,
When I hold you now
We are close and deep
As the atmosphere on water.

My two hands are plumbed water.
You are my palpable, lithe
Otter of memory
In the pool of the moment,

Turning to swim on your back,
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
Heaving the cool at your neck.

And suddenly you're out,
Back again, intent as ever,
Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,
Printing the stones.

Seamus Heaney

Photo: The Otter Trust.

These otters were the first to be bred in captivity in Britain and were born at the Norfolk Wildlife Park, Great Witchingham, 14 miles N.W. of Norwich. Young otters are released into the wild on a regular basis to help save the otter from extinction in Britain. The Park is open to the public.


  1. Ring of Brightwater remains one of my favourite books. We are lucky enough to be able to see sea-otters off Carmel and Monterey. They wind the long strands of kelp/sea-weed around their babies so that they won't drift away whilst the parents are fishing for food. They complain loudly.
    Otters are so full of personality, humour and grace. Great Post. Thanks.

  2. I love otters. Have never had an opportunity to react closely with one. Stories about otters are fun. Blessings

  3. That photo was a great find! Those otters are so loving. Seamus Heaney has been really very popular in Ireland these past few years. It's a shame he's not read so much in the U.S. "my otter of memory." so much feeling. Loved the post, Friko. Thanks.

  4. Beautiful lithe creatures - great poem.

    An otter was found dead on the roadside not far from here recently. Sad? Yes - but it does mean they are hereabouts and that there will be more.

  5. 'And suddenly you're out,
    Back again, intent as ever'
    guess that's what life is about. wish you a wonderful weekend.

  6. When we were in Alaska, a couple of otters followed the ship for a while. I took some pictures, but they were a bit too far. I’ll post them though in one of my next Alaska posts. It's nice that they can be bread in captivity though.

  7. I especially like the fact that otters know how to play...something we keep forgetting.

  8. English Rider - I am not sure that coastal and freshwater otters are the same creatures? You are so lucky to have them around. They are so very rare still in British waters. Did you read The Rocks Remain? Maxwell had a lovely, soft touch.

    Queenmothermamaw - Neither have I, closely, except in captivity.
    Greetings to you.

    20thC Woman - Yes and yes. Glad you liked both.

    Margaret - Thank you. Glad you liked the poem; do you have Irish connections?

    mountainear - Very sad, but yes, they are around; there have been sightings in my local river, the Clun, particularly when the river was in full spate.Somebody took a photo of one playing in their flooded garden.

    Robert - Thank you. Poets are so much more eloquent than I could ever be. Happy weekend to you too, try and get some sleep.

    Vagabonde - Hi well-travelled lady; look forward to seeing your otter pictures and all the others.

    Tabor - They really are gorgeous. Perhaps they give the impression of joyous good spirits because they always seem to be playing? You are right, we should do more of that ourselves. Congratulations on being featured on Time Goes By.

  9. Lovely picture and superb choice of poem to accompany it. A real joy to find.

  10. Dave - Thank you so much. The comment of a poet means much to me.

  11. Sea Otters are bigger, but very similar in other ways. They float on their backs and use rocks to pound open the mussels and oysters they gather on their tummies.

  12. English Rider - How wonderful! And you can actually watch dem that?

  13. English Rider - What happened there? "watch them do that", of course.


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