Utter: otter | Cai Draper
It doesn’t manifest itself around other people. Nobody believes me. Powerful at dawn in that split between yourself and others at its fullest, the way the moon goes ahead and gets thinner. A smooth shimmy in and the slippery banks inside you are steady enough for working a practise. Usually a simple breakfast like: hearing the tumbling of blackbirds in places they shouldn’t. Mornings = time-bombs. Always a warm one. In the first push outside I dodge all and cuss in my head. It’s too windy for anything else. I didn’t make me like to do this. It’s just: otter.
One morning I slink into the murk and there is writing pressed into the gutter. After I get over not having enough time for anything, I spend an epoch and learn it by heart. It says: srsly everyone’s super dirty and a complicated thing doer. I'm like: what the actual heck does that not mean to anyone around here you ignorant or just stupid? And everyone passing by brunchtime is like: look what otter’s doofus head does again. Oh dear. And I’m like: I was actually not born like this, it’s the tint in my era.
Luttra luttra, like an ancestor. The flies are too early it’s spring. I’m supposed to be planning for all eventualities but mostly I just make a den and go for it. Maybe my new friends I made two years ago can fix the things I pretend to find broken. I read a philosopher once on the bank and still quote it. Lies, utter. How to be both yourself and myself, otter and other, in a perfect example of go away closer.
By lunchtime I’m up for it, when it means nobody else and pizza. It’s going to be Valentine’s Day soon. That’s the anniversary of my death that hasn’t happened yet. I keep reading The Art of War by accident. Everyone is telling me otters don’t read, and I’m like: have you even seen Ring of Bright Water? And they’re mostly like: no. Then I go back to the basics. Person, water, run away further.
Another thing about otter is I keep saying fucking no way to everything all the time and it’s great. I mean lonelier than ever.
Many treat me in a way that’s like: ‘I love you to the grinder’, and I think: you have watched Marriage Story too much already. Then I skitter along the pecs of myself and tunnel into an oily armpit where it’s a touch cosy & safer. So put the sign up again: keep off the otter. There’ll all having incredible fun without me, I know it like water knows what it’s coming for. The reason I know this is that I hear a hoot then the filling of a cistern. Don’t speak to me about truth & love. I read the philosophy. It said: everything exists in your mind, or it doesn’t. I’m like: I’ve run out of data.
My old friends receive me at dusk and they get it. Snails on a plate with the dimples. Sprung holder and the wild garlic butter. I taste like them for three days after. Everyone doesn’t tell me what they’re really thinking except myself, and that’s what I call an unreliable narrator. My sadness surrounds the particulates. That’s when I draw for the party bag. That’s how I get into debt: fuck it.
This particular midnight I'm up to my bulging in slimy green business and a friend of a friend breaks in through the culvert. Steals all my lotions and kinks away. Not being funny but as if I wasn't saving them for the time I would do the memoir and get the payment. I use words after I haven’t.
At this exact moment I am a full-time otter. Storm Ciara plush bluster all over my den. What a lot of busily tending to things getting put in the bin. Eyes a set of blurry trolley magnets in the river. Twenty four hours of new rubbish scatter. The storms are getting timely and badder. I’m like: otter gosh darn it.
Being an otter doesn’t correlate with any other matter. Others keep knocking on the den and I’m like: I’m eating whatever. What you having? Otter, just to put them in a spin. I like it here. Think I’ll spend life in a chatterbox clinking chintz courtier, and everyone’ll be like: what the- . Normally nobody is jealous of the way I do things apart from the glitz and glamour of slip-green boardwalk self-self natter.
They have absolutely no idea.
Cai Draper is a poet from South London. His work has been published by Bad Betty Press, Lighthouse journal and Burning House Press, with poems forthcoming in the next issues of Tentacular and Tenebrae. He organises free poetry workshops at the Book Hive.