top of page


Meredith Stafford

From quotations on “eel” in the OED 

An eel-fisher,  

treading lob-worms  

on to worsted, endeavoring 

to hold an eel by the tail—to net every 

eel that passed downriver 

that night. Made an eel spear. Went  

eeling. The river fell over  

a high weir, bucks and hatchways  

and eel-baskets  

of wickerwork, braided  

or made in the winter.  

Swarming with vessels for  

gunning, eel picking,  

and periwinkling.  

(This singular eel-freak.) 


Ocean-bound hordes 

of eel inhabit these brilliant 

groves, ooze and eel up  

wheezily, found so far west  

in the full-grown, in clusters  

in the bottom of the river,  

in abhorrence, into the soft 

mud. The pains of an eel-bed— 

all alive in the bodies— 

taste of the weeds and feculence  

where they dwell. 


It is a lucky eel 

that escapes skinning. He looked 

at the beast: a monstrous size,  

corpse-fed, knife-blade-like,  

slender toothed jaws  

with flesh like snow  

(Serpent-hearted eel).  

The Big Eel, the devil spirit 

naked as a stone. 


One place will be left dark 

through the long winter. 


He puts the slice  

into a fish, he truncheons  

eel—pulling off 

the skin, the eel falling 

tenderly from the bone— 

and swallows it whole. Let 

the life-loving eel writhe 

and die: it may never 

let go, the pieces of an eel 

cut asunder continue 

to wriggle. 

Spring 2024

bottom of page