The Prickwillow Zombies

The first sign were them glutted crows,
Turning on us their dark, clotted beaks,
Their glazed, sated eyes.  Each stretchin’
A lazy wing, like a shaken umbrella,
They ignored Old Nip’s growlin’
As we passed them on the road,
But hopped, heavily, in the silence.

Silence, where there should ha’ been
The rhythmic thumpin’ o’ pistons,
The pressured hiss o’ steam.
Already the water rose behind the engine house
As I watched from the bridge.

There were a rustle an’ a bark,
And Old Nip burst from the reeds,
Dragging by the hair half a human head.
It were cracked open like a coconut,
The careful cave-spaces inside licked
Clean to the bone, shinin’
Obscenely white.  “Drop it, Nip!”
My fog-muffled voice scared me.
By then I’d seen the torso, jacket-shoulders
Inflated, floatin’ in the drain.
On the roof-ridge o’ the engine house
A flat cap were balanced, like a joke.

Well, I scarpered – raised the alarm,
And by the time the pump were fixed,
Everyone were sayin’ how they’d been the first
To that spot, seen a crowd o’ squelchin’,
Shufflin’ figures, silhouetted on the bank
By Spooner’s Farm.  Talkin’ rubbish
About corpses risin’ from the fen.
Some folk’ll believe anything.

But I have to admit, it were never the same again,
Between me an’ Old Nip.  He’d lie
By the fire o’ nights, his eyes glazed
Like them crows.  And I couldn’t stop thinking
Of him worryin’ that unfortunate’s head.
Old Nip, he died that winter.  I grieved for my
Companion of so many years.  I took him
To the high ground at Ely, and you can be sure –
I dug him a bloody big hole.

Elaine Ewart, Fenland Poet Laureate

For the Prickwillow Zombie Festival, November 2012

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