Boiling blood off gin jaws, he stirs his cauldron; witch-finder,
squinting through steamy miasma. Droplets form on long whiskers.
When he is done, he will bury the traps in the earth for a week,
ladling black soil over gleaming teeth. The funk of man
will fade, like skin retreating from a skull long sunk
in peat. Steel mandibles marinade, soaking up
the soft heat of dawn on sod, the rock pipit’s fluting shriek,
the stink of old lightning, a midnight downpour, crow garlic.
They yawn, flavouring by degrees; a whiskeyed sepulchritude,
a weathering, a wake.
When he returns, lantern fizzing with gnats,
he spades back dirt, reveals the sleepers. A wrap of brown paper
to hold the musk; seized hinges wheeze and whinny
as he sets each trap along a wheated gully, prising fangs apart with stakes.
A tot of aniseed to sweeten the pot, a lick of Young’s Draw Game
eye-droppered from a brown glass bottle, delicious
on the catch of the tongue. Jagged O, spraddled across a run,
wallowing like an open cobra in a haystack’s lee, glutted
with potential, its springs greased, grooved teeth yearning to tessellate.
Lately, the rat-catcher hears their treadles
snicking in his sleep; a gnash, a gobbet of moon,
a thrashing bounty, blood spots bright as milk.
He grinds his broken teeth. His twitching nostrils sing with death.
The gin traps wait with baited breath.