"87 Beavers", a poem.
43 pairs and a spare
What wonder could they do?
I would magic them to rivers of the West.
To Cornwall and Devon.
We are greedy for them here;
to combat our flooded villages,
our drought racked pastures.
I can see them settling, 43 pairs and a spare,
in the Lynher, the Otter, the Inny, the Tiddy,
turning moorland runoff into timpanic lakes;
mud baths for swallows, nurseries for trout,
eels writhing like Medusa’s hair. Pond skaters,
buffeted by oars of water boatmen
would dance their dodgem car waltz,
crimson and cyan damsel flies, dragonflies,
coots, geese, mallard, moorhen, all joining
in riotous party din.
In beaver coppiced clearings
goshawks would hunt grey squirrels,
and around water's edge by ragged robin,
the golden eyes of marsh ragwort,
marsh buttercup, flag iris.
What a sight from the air
would be the vista devised by 43 pairs,
and a spare!
Wetlands like emerald chrysalises swelling in sun,
landscapes of bright viridian and watery blue,
a sky dark with birds, the corvid caw of rooks, jackdaws,
and somewhere, if you listen very carefully,
a yellow hammer calling for a little bit of bread with no cheese.
As night falls how the air would swell
with scent of honeysuckle and meadow sweet;
bats swooping like falling sycamore wings,
a soundtrack of munching vegetation,
teeth sawing alder, willow, oak.
Beavers. Building landscapes. Growing ecology.
Protecting our villages from flooding.
See how they journey, those 43 pairs and a spare!
Down the Lynher, up the Tamar, along the Seaton,
into the Fowey, through the Inny, across the Otter,
building lodges, birthing kits, managing wetlands
to swelling torsos of diamond clean water,
until 43 pairs and a spare are 173, 259, 517, 1033.
In the winter see our towns and villages,
free from flooding, are open as usual.
Hessenford, Seaton, Boscastle, Looe,
Polperro, Fowey, Mevagissy, Bude -
saved by 87 beavers.
43 pairs and a spare.
The pixies in Cornwall are dead and gone -
so too are the 43 pairs and a spare.
We are confined to offices of flood management schemes,
rivers brown with farmyard chemicals, with filthy topsoil;
so this poem of emerald tracts is as bitter-sweetly etched
as the great land of Oz. Gone the yellow brick road
with its promise of lions and tigers and bears oh my;
for these beaver’s bones will never become
the building blocks of ecological alchemy
but form instead archaeological evidence
of their second great extinction.
87 dead beavers.
43 dead pairs
and one dead spare.