The Way the Crocodile Taught Me

I swooned at the large god of him, sunning.
A tooth for every day of my life.
He performed his run along the bank,
as males do. I brought my boat closer.
He took to following, at a distance.

I wasn’t taken in, knew his four-chambered heart
pumped love out and in, in and out,
knew his tongue had few good uses,
knew all about his grin. Yet whoever said he was cold-
blooded has never truly known this beast.

He brought out the prehistoric in me. I dived.
We swam, belly to belly, to where the Niles meet,
tussled as we thrashed among the weeds. After, I lay
the length of him, a limestone lilo, studs patterning
my skin. He smiled at me, often. Taught me all he knew.

Years later, when a man tried to drag me under,
I practised the force my lover had held back –
levered my small jaws open to their furthest extent,
splashed them down on the human’s arm.
My attacker still carries the mark of my smile.

by Katrina Naomi

This is the last Weekly Poem of 2016. The Poetry Centre wishes you a very Merry Christmas! We look forward to sharing more poems with you in 2017, as well as details of our upcoming readings, workshops, and events for 2017. For more initial details on those, do visit the Poetry Centre website.

‘The Way the Crocodile Taught Me’ is copyright © Katrina Naomi, 2016. It is reprinted from The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

With warmth, flair and a certain ferocious wit, Katrina Naomi tears into her subject matter in The Way the Crocodile Taught Me: a childhood fraught with dislocation and violence but also redeemed by more tender memories of a sister and a kindly, although at times comically obtuse, grandmother. The tone of the work is as much tender as turbulent, reflecting the protagonist’s travails. Vicki Feaver has praised Katrina Naomi’s ‘cool voice and fierce eye’, and this pointed, lively and always entertaining book is sure to delight all those who know Katrina’s work, and undoubtedly win new fans for her courageous and unabashedly entertaining poems. You can read more about the book on Seren’s website.

Katrina Naomi has a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College. She was the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire and was recently writer-in-residence at Gladstone’s Library in North Wales where she wrote a sequence on the Suffragettes, published by Rack Press as Hooligans. Her debut collection The Girl with the Cactus Handshake received an Arts Council Award and was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award. Her pamphlet Lunch at the Elephant & Castle won the 2008 Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition and her pamphlet Charlotte Brontë’s Corset was published to acclaim by the Brontë Society. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, a tutor at Falmouth University and runs Poetry Surgeries for the Poetry Society. Katrina’s recent work has been broadcast on Radio 4 and published by the TLS, The Spectator, The Poetry Review and Poetry Wales. She received an award from the Royal Literary Fund in 2014 for her writing. She enjoys performing her poetry and collaborating with visual artists, musicians and film-makers. She recently had an exhibition at London’s Poetry Café entitled ‘The Argument: Art V Poetry’, following a collaboration with the visual artist, Tim Ridley. She is originally from Margate and lives in Cornwall.

You can find out more about Katrina’s work on her website, in this recent interview from Literature Works, and by following her on Twitter.

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website.Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.