When I started this version I thought I was maybe just fiddling. I don’t know. At the moment the rather minor changes feel important.
I note a lack of agreement in the phrase, “the words that had been eaten … that was smudge now”. “Words” is plural, “was smudge” should be “were smudge”? Yet I prefer “was”. Words a singular like team or language. Then there’s getting rid of “was” … “eaten and digested, / smudge now across a watery way …” Hm.
Paul Mariah’s workshop, I recall, was the place I learned to look at the tiniest words, like “it” or “was” or “the”. One tends to overlook them. Then the question, if overlooked, truly needed? I can see other places that might profitably lose small words. “I had to tear loose some fear, / some little of it / caught in the hinge …”